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THE trite and commonplace question of con- 
tentment and dissatisfaction is a topic which is 
not only of every-day interest, but one which in 
recent years has so claimed the attention of think- 
ers, that they have broadly divided mankind into 
those who accept life off-hand, as a more or less 
pleasing possession, and those who resolutely 
look the gift in the mouth and say it is not worth 
the having. 

Viewed simply as systems of thought, the first 
of these two divisions is evidently contempora- 
neous with humanity, while the second will be 
found to be of purely modern origin ; for from 
the earliest times man, admittedly and with but 
few exceptions, has been ever accustomed to re- 
gard this world as the best one possible, and 
through nearly every creed and sect he has con- 
sidered happiness somewhat in the light of an 
inviolable birthright. 

2 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

Within the last half century, however, there 
has come into being a new school, which, in deny- 
ing the possibility of any happiness, holds as first 
principle that the world is a theatre of misery in 
which, were the choice accorded, it would be pref- 
erable not to be born at all. 

In stating that this view of life is of distinctly 
modern origin, it should be understood that it is 
so only in the systematic form which it has re- 
cently assumed, for individual expressions of dis- 
content have been handed down from remote 
ages, and any one who cared to rummage through 
the dust-bins of literature would find material 
enough to compile a dictionary of pessimistic 

For these pages but little rummaging will be 
attempted, but as the proper presentation of the 
subject demands a brief account of the ideas and 
opinions in which it was cradled, a momentary 
examination of general literature will not, it is 
believed, cause any after-reproach of time mis- 

To begin, then, with Greece, whose literature 
has precedence over all others, it will be remem- 
bered that in former days, when the citizen ex- 
pended the greater part of his activity for the 
common good, the poets in like manner sang of 
national topics, the gods, the heroes, and the 
charms of love. There was, therefore, little op- 
portunity for the expression of purely personal 
ideas, and the whole background of the poetry 
of antiquity is in consequence brilliant with op- 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 3 

timistic effect. Nevertheless, here and there, a 
few complaints crop out from time to time. 
Homer, for instance, says that man is the unhap- 
piest wight that ever breathed or strutted, and 
describes his ephemeral existence in a wail of 
gloomy hexameters. 

Then, too, there is the touching Orphean dis- 
tich, which runs : 

" From thy smile, O Jove, sprang the gods, 
But man was born of thy sorrow." 

Pindar in one of his graceful odes compared men 
to the shadows of a dream, while the familiar 
quotation, " Whom the gods love die young," 
comes to us straight from Menander. 

With the peculiar melancholy of genius, that in 
those favored days seems more a presentiment 
than the expression of a general conception, 
Sophocles, in his last tragedy, says that not to 
be born at all is the greatest of all possible ben- 
efits, but inasmuch as man has appeared on earth, 
the very best thing he can do is to hurry back 
where he came from. 

In spite, too, of the general tendency of thought, 
sentiments not dissimilar are to be found in JEs- 
chylus and Euripides, while something of this in- 
stinctive pessimism was expanded into a quaint 
and national custom by the Thracians, who, ac- 
cording to Herodotus, met birth with lamenta- 
tions, but greeted death with salvos and welcom- 
ing festivals. 

With but few exceptions the early philosophers 

4 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

considered death not as a misfortune, but as an 
advantage. Empedocles taught that the sojourn 
on earth was one of vexatious torment, an opin- 
ion in which he was firmly supported by He- 
raclitus, and even Plato, whose general drift of 
thought was grandly optimistic, said in the "Apol- 
ogy?" " If death is the withdrawal of every sensa- 
tion, if it is like a sleep which no dream disturbs, 
what an incomparable blessing it must be ! for let 
any one select a night passed in undisturbed and 
entire rest, and compare it with the other nights 
and days that have filled his existence, and then 
from his conscience let him answer how many 
nights and days he has known which have been 
sweeter and more agreeable than that. For my 
part I am sure that not the ordinary individual 
alone, but even the great King of Persia would 
find such days and nights most easy to enumer- 

The doctrine of Epicurus held, in substance, 
that the moment it was no longer possible to 
delight the senses death became a benefit, and 
suicide a crowning act of wisdom. The teaching 
of the Socratic school and its offshoots amounted, 
in brief, to the idea that the only admissible aim 
of life was the pursuit and attainment of abso- 
lute knowledge. Absolute knowledge, however, 
being found unattainable, the logical culmination 
of their doctrine was delivered by Hegesias, in 
Alexandria, in the third century before the Chris- 
tian era. This disciple of Socrates argued that 
as there was a limit to the knowable, and happi- 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 5 

ness was a pure illusion, a further prolongation 
of existence was useless. " Life seems pleasing 
only to the fool," he stated ; " the wise regard it 
with indifference, and consider death just as ac- 
ceptable." " Death," he added, " is as good as 
life ; it is but a supreme renunciation in which 
man is freed from idle complaints and long de- 
ceptions. Life is full of pain, and the pangs of 
the flesh gnaw at the mind and rout its calm. In 
countless ways fate intercepts and thwarts our 
hopes. Contentment is not to be relied on, and 
even wisdom cannot preserve us from the treach- 
ery and insecurity of the perceptions. Since hap- 
piness, then, is intangible we should cease to 
pursue it, and take for our goal the absence of 
pain ; this condition," he explained, " is best ob- 
tained in making ourselves indifferent to every 
object of desire and every cause of dislike, and 
above all to life itself. In any event," he con- 
cluded, " death is advantageous in this, it takes 
us not from blessings but from evil." 1 

This curious mixture of pessimism and theol- 
ogy was, it is said, delivered with such charm of 
persuasive grace and eloquence that several of 
his listeners put his ideas into instant practice, 
and that the city might be preserved from the 
contagion of suicide, King Ptolemy felt himself 
obliged to prevent this seductive misanthrope 
from delivering any further harangues. 

Literature has the same tendency to repeat it- 
self as history, and as the Romans took much 
1 Zeller, Philosophic der Griechen. 

6 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

of their culture and many of their ideas from 
Greece, the tone of their principal writers is only 
dissimilar to those already quoted in that with 
the fall of their religion, the decline of the em- 
pire and the universal intoxication of the senses, 
the pessimist element became somewhat accentu- 
ated. It would be an idle task, however, to at- 
tempt to cite even a fraction of the cheerless dis- 
tress which pervades the Roman classics, and it 
will perhaps suffice for the moment to note but 
a passage or two, which bear directly upon the 

Seneca, for instance, whose insight was as clear 
and whose understanding was as unclouded as 
any writer with whom the world is acquainted, 
sent his letters down the centuries freighted with 
such ideas as these : " Death is nature's most ad- 
mirable invention." " There is no need to com- 
plain of particular grievances, for life in its en- 
tirety is lamentable." " No one would accept 
life were it not received in ignorance of what it 

Pliny, also, is very quotable. " Nature's most 
pleasing invention," he says, " is brevity of life." 
And he adds, " No mortal is happy, for even if 
there is no other cause for discontent there is at 
least the fear of possible misfortune." 

Then, too, Petronius, the poet of the Roman 
orgy, opening and closing his veins, toying with 
death, as with a last and supreme delight, is of 
familiar, if repulsive, memory. 

English literature is naturally as well stocked 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 7 

with individual expressions of distaste for exist- 
ence as that of Rome. The poets, nearly one 
and all, from Chaucer to Rossetti, have told their 
sorrow in a variety of more or less polished metre, 
and even Macpherson was careful, in dowering 
his century with another bard, to put thoughts 
into Ossian's verse which would not have been 
unfitting in a Greek chorus. 

In speaking of the world, Chaucer had already 

" Here is no home, here is but a wilderness," 

when Sir Thomas Wyatt, enlarging on the theme, 

" Wherefore come death and let me dye." 
The delicate muse of Samuel Fletcher found 
" Nothing 's so dainty sweet, as lovely melancholy," 

and Shakespeare's depressing lines on the value 
of life are familiar to every schoolboy. 
Dryden wrote, 

" When I consider life, 't is all a cheat ; 
Yet, fooled with hope, men favour the deceit, 
Trust on and think to-morrow will repay ; 
To-morrow 's falser than the former day." 

All of which was afterwards summed up in the 
well-known line, 

" Man never is but always to be blessed," 
while Thomson noted 

..." all the thousand, nameless ills 
That one incessant struggle render life." 

Keats, and especially Byron, wrote stanza after 

8 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

stanza of enervating sadness. Moore's dear ga- 
zelle is nowadays a familiar comparison. Shel- 
ley's tremulous sensibility forbade his finding any 
charm in life, and we none of us need to be re- 
minded that Poe's soul was sorrow-laden. 

But the poets are not alone in their tale of the 
deceptions of life ; the moralists and essayists, 
too, have added their quota to the general budget, 
and it is not simply the value of life that has been 
questioned by many of the best writers ; there has 
been also a certain surprise expressed that man 
should care to live at all. Indeed, the " I see no 
necessity " of the wit, to the beggar imploring aid 
that he might live, is the epigram of the thoughts 
of a hundred scholars. 

In France, pessimism cannot be said to have 
been ever regarded otherwise than as an intel- 
lectual curiosity. The Frenchman, it is true, not 
infrequently lapses into a cynical indifference ; yet 
the value of life is as a rule so evident to him, 
that he seldom vouchsafes more than a passing 
shrug to any theory of disparagement. In the 
first place, death, to which the hat is gravely 
raised, has never been in France a polite or wel- 
come topic ; moreover, French literature, while 
lawless enough in other respects, has left its 
readers generally unprepared to view the world 
as a fiasco, in which misery is the one immense 
success. The trouveres and troubadours sang 
to the mediaeval chatelaine little else than the 
praise of love, with here and there the account 
of some combat, to show what they might do 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 9 

were they put to the test. Later, Villon told 
gently of the neiges d'antan, Ronsard aimed a 
dart or two at fate, and Rabelais's laugh was 
sometimes very near to tears ; but, broadly speak- 
ing, the French asked of their writers little else 
than wit, if they could not give them that, then 
should they hold their peace. 

The delicate irony of Candide had, therefore, 
when appreciated, something almost novel in its 
savor; and, indeed, it may fairly be said that it 
was not until the blight of Byron had been cheer- 
fully translated, that the French were in any meas- 
ure prepared to understand Rolla and the pa- 
thetic beauties of De Mussel's verse. Pascal, 
Helvetius, and other writers of desultory depres- 
sion had of course already appeared. Mauper- 
tuis had found no difficulty in showing that life 
held more pain than pleasure, while Chamfort's 
conclusions on the same subject were as lumi- 
nous as they were gloomy ; and yet it is difficult to 
say that the gall with which these authors dashed 
their pages served otherwise than as a condiment 
to fresher and" less flavored works. Baudelaire, 
the poet of boredom, praying for a new vice that 
should wrest life into some semblance of reality, 
was in consequence almost a novelty, and not a 
perfectly satisfactory one at that. It is there- 
fore only within the last ten years or so that pes- 
simism has in any wise attracted the notice of 
French thinkers, and the attention which has re- 
cently been paid to it is due partly to Leconte de 
Lisle, and partly to a surge of German thought. 

io The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

During the eighteenth century the majority of 
the scholars who represented the culture of Ger- 
many were faithfully following the optimist theo- 
ries of Leibnitz and Wolf. The doctrine that 
the world was the best one possible, supported 
as it was by official theology and strictly in ac- 
cord with the deism of Pope and Paley, was very 
generally and unhesitatingly accepted. Indeed, 
there is no apparent reason why it should not 
have been. The Minnesingers doubtless had for- 
mulated some few complaints, but then these lit- 
erary vagrants had already begun to form part 
of mythology, and besides, poets are all more or 
less prone to discontent and voluble of sorrow. 
Beyond the classics of Greece and Rome there 
was, therefore, no precedent for pessimistic 
thought. German literature, strictly speaking, 
did not begin until Lessing's advent, and before 
that the theatre, with its Hans Wurst and its 
Pickleherring, had offered only a succession of 
the broadest farce. 

The calm and quiet which the Germans then 
enjoyed was ruffled, if at all, only by some con- 
fused echoes of the obiter dicta which Voltaire's 
royal disciple was pleased to disseminate, but it 
is probable that the better part of this ferocious 
gayety was drowned in crossing the Rhine, and, 
in any event, it was too delicately pungent to do 
more than disturb the placid current of their 

Later, when Kant appeared, the effect of his 
philosophy was very much like a successful treat- 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 1 1 

ment of cataract on the eyes of the whole nation. 
" Happiness," he insisted in the " Kritik der 
Urtheilskraft," " has never been attained by man, 
for he is unable to find contentment in any pos- 
session or enjoyment, . . . and were he called 
upon to fashion a system of happiness for his 
fellows he would be unable to do so, for happi- 
ness is in its essence intangible." " No one," 
he added elsewhere, " has a right conception of 
life who would care to prolong it beyond its natu- 
ral duration, for it would then be only the con- 
tinuation of an already tiresome struggle." 

After this the teaching of Leibnitz slowly dis- 
appeared, and though a certain amount of op- 
timism necessarily subsisted, the tendency of 
thought veered to the opposite direction. Fichte, 
Kant's immediate successor, declared, in direct 
contradiction to Leibnitz, that this world was the 
worst one possible, and was only consoled by 
thinking he could raise himself by the aid of pure 
thought into the felicity of the "supersensible." 
" Men," he says, " in the vehement pursuit of 
happiness grasp at the first object which offers 
to them any prospect of satisfaction, but imme- 
diately they turn an introspective eye and ask, 
' Am I happy ? ' and at once from their inner- 
most being a voice answers distinctly, ' No, you 
are as poor and as miserable as before.' Then 
they think it was the object that deceived them, 
and turn precipitately to another. But the sec- 
ond holds as little satisfaction as the first. . . . 
Wandering then through life, restless and tor- 

12 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

merited, at each successive station they think 
that happiness dwells at the next, but when they 
reach it happiness is no longer there. In what- 
ever position they may find themselves there is 
always another one which they discern from afar, 
and which but to touch, they think, is to find the 
wished delight, but when the goal is reached dis- 
content has followed on the way and stands in 
haunting constancy before them." 1 

Schelling expressed himself more guardedly. 
As professional pantheist, he seemed to think 
that anything not rigidly vague and inaccessible 
was inconsistent with his philosophy. Still there 
was probably a secret revolt, some propelling im- 
pulse to deny his own syllogisms, and to bathe 
for once in some clear stream of common sense. 
In the " Nachtwachen," which he published un- 
der the pseudonym of Bonaventura, this incen- 
tive is evidently, though unsuccessfully, at work. 
It may be that the force of habit was too strong, 
but at any rate this rhapsody, which was intended 
to be a confession of the combat that he had 
waged with his belief, and a recognition of the 
immedicable misery of life, brings with it some- 
thing of that impression of delirium which Poe 
and Dore not infrequently suggest. 

Nor was Hegel hostile to pessimism; he re- 
garded it as an inevitable phase of universal 
evolution, and indeed its dawn as a science had 
then already broken. 

Meanwhile the poets had not been idle. Her- 

1 Werke, v. p. 408, et seq. 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 13 

der and Schiller had already attested the bitter- 
ness of life to unreluctant ears, and the number 
of suicides that were directly traceable to the 
appearance of Werther and his sorrows was in- 
structively large. This phase of sentimentalism, 
which immediately preceded the riotous rebirth 
of the Romantic school, was not without its in- 
fluence on Heine's verse, and in some measure 
affected the literary tone of the day. 

It would, however, be erroneous to suppose 
that the poets of this epoch were more agitated 
by the impression of universal worthlessness of 
life than were their classic predecessors. The 
distress of Werther, as that of Lara and of 
Holla, was not the pain of suffering humanity j it 
was in each case merely the poet's complacent 
analysis of his own exceptional nature and per- 
sonal grievances ; it was the expression of the in- 
evitable surprise of youth, which notes for the 
first time reality's unsuspected yet yawning in- 
difference to the ideal, and the stubborn disac- 
cord between aspiration and fact. It was indeed 
very beautiful and elegiac, and yet so fluent in 
its polished melancholy that somehow it did not 
at all times seem to have been really felt. In 
any case, it was not a theory of common woe, and 
lacked that clear conception of the universality 
of suffering, which the less exalted minds of the 
philosophers had already signaled, but for which 
no one as yet had been able to suggest a rem- 

It was about this time that an action was being 

14 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

instituted against humanity by a young Italian, 
the Count Giacomo Leopardi, and the muffled 
discontent which for centuries had been throb- 
bing through land and literature was raised by 
his verse into one clear note of eloquent ar- 

Now, in most countries there is a provision 
which inhibits a judge from hearing a cause 
which is pleaded by one of his connections, for 
it is considered that the scales of justice are so 
delicately balanced, that their holder should be 
preserved from any biasing influence, however 
indirect ; for much the same reason, there are 
few communities that permit a man to sit in 
judgment on his own case. Some knowledge of 
Leopardi himself, therefore, will be of service in 
deciding whether the verdict which he brought 
against the world should be accepted without ap- 
peal, or returned as vitiated by extraneous cir- 

Leopardi passed a joyless boyhood at Recanti, 
one of those maddeningly monotonous Italian 
towns whose unspeakable dreariness is only at- 
tractive when viewed through the pages of Sten- 
dhal. The unrelaxing severity of an austere and 
pedant father curbed, as with a bit, every symp- 
tom of that haphazard gayety which is incident 
to youth. At once precocious and restive, de- 
formed yet inflammable, he was necessarily ener- 
vated by the exasperating dullness of his life, 
and chafed, too, by the rigid poverty to which his 
father condemned him. As he grew up, his 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 15 

mind, richly stored with the wealth of antiquity, 
rioted in a turbulency of imagination which, un- 
able to find sympathetic welcome without, con- 
sumed itself m morbid distrust within, and led 
him at last from fervid Catholicism down the 
precipitate steps of negation. 

He was not much over twenty before excessive 
study had well-nigh ruined such health as he 
once possessed. The slightest application was 
wearisome both to eye and brain. He wandered 
silently about the neighboring forests, seeking 
solitude not only for the sake of solitude, but 
also perhaps for the suggestions, at once soothing 
and rebellious, which solitude always whispers to 
him who courts her truly. At other times he sat 
hour by hour in a state as motionless as that of 
catalepsy. " I am so much overcome," he wrote 
to a friend, " by the nothingness that surrounds 
me, that I do not know how I have the strength 
to answer your letter. If at this moment I lost 
my reason, I think that my insanity would con- 
sist in sitting always with eyes fixed, open- 
mouthed, without laughing or weeping, or chang- 
ing place. I have no longer the strength to form 
a desire, be it even for death." 

The Muse, however, would have none of this ; 
she flaunted her peplum so seductively before 
him that, a little later, when he had been visited 
by some semblance of returning health, he re- 
sisted no longer, and delivered himself up to her, 
heart and soul. 

The present century, especially during its ear- 

1 6 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

Her decades, has been racked with a great glut 
of despondent verse ; but no batch of poets, 
however distressed, has been able, at any time, 
to catch and cling to such a persistent monotone 
of complaint as that which runs through every 
line of Leopardi's verse. To quote De Musset : 

" Les plus desesperes sont les chants les plus beaux, 
Et j'en sais d'immortels qui sont de purs sanglots." 

His odes, his adjurations to Italy, and his ele- 
gies are, one and all, stamped with such unvary- 
ing and changeless despair, that their dominant 
motive seems not unlike that tower which Rene, 
finding alone in the desert, compared to a great 
thought in a mind ravaged by years and by grief. 
His theory of life never altered ; he resumed it 
in a distich, 

..." Arcano e tutto 

Fuor che il nostro dolor." 

It may be said, and with justice perhaps, that it 
was the invalid body, aggravating and coexisting 
with a mind naturally morbid, that afterwards 
wrote of the gentilezza del morir, but it was the 
thinker, conquering the ills of the flesh, who 
later whispered to the suffering world the pana- 
cea of patience and resignation. 

In Leopardi there is none of the vapid ele- 
gance and gaudy vocabulary of French verse ; 
technically, he wrote in what the Italians call 
rime sciolte, and he charms the reader as well 
through a palpitant sincerity as evident and con- 
tinuous inspiration. Now, the educated Italian 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 17 

turns naturally to rhyme ; any incident holds to 
him the germ of a sonnet, and there is perhaps 
no other country in the world so richly dowered 
with patriotic canzoni as this joyously unhappy 
land. But of all who have sounded this elo- 
quent chord, not one has done so with the mas- 
culine originality and fervor of expression that 
Leopard! reached in his ode to Italy, in which, 
in a resounding call to arms, he exclaims : 

" Let my blood, O gods ! be a flame to Italian hearts." 

Italian hearts, however, had other matters to at- 
tend to, and Leopardi's magnificent invocation 
was barely honored with a passing notice. For 
that matter, his poetry, in spite of its resonant 
merit, has, through some inexplicable cause, been 
generally ignored ; and while it resembles no 
other, it has never, so to speak, been in vogue. 

As has been seen, he was a lover of solitude ; 
indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say 
that he was glued to it ; and in the isolation 
which he partly made himself, and which was 
partly forced upon him, he watched the incubation 
of thought very much as another might have 
noted the progress of a disease. A life of this 
description, even at best, is hardly calculated to 
awaken much enthusiasm for every-day matters, 
and it was not long before Leopardi became not 
only heartily sick of the commonplace aspects of 
life, but contemptuous, too, of those who lived 
in broader and more active spheres. 

Poetically untrammeled, and of advanced views 

1 8 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

on all subjects, he regarded erudition as the sim- 
ple novitiate of the man of letters, or in other 
words, as a preparation which renders the intelli- 
gence supple and pliant ; and in one of those 
rare moments, when the timid approach of am- 
bition was seemingly unnoticed, he caressed the 
pleasing plan of attacking Italian torpor with 
reason, passion with laughter, and of becoming, 
in fact, the Plato, the Shakespeare, and the Lu- 
cian of his epoch. To Giordani, his mentor, he 
wrote : " I study night and day, so long as my 
health permits ; when it prevents me from work- 
ing, I wait a month or so, and then begin again. 
As I am now totally different from that which I 
was, my plan of study has altered with me. 
Everything which savors of the pathetic or the 
eloquent wearies me beyond expression. I seek 
now only the true, the real, which before was so 
repulsive. I take pleasure in analyzing the mis- 
ery of men and things, and in shivering as I note 
the sinister and terrible mystery of life. I see 
very clearly that when passion is once extin- 
guished, there subsists in study no other source 
of pleasure save that of vain curiosity, whose 
satisfaction, however, is not without a certain 

But Leopardi was so essentially the poet that, 
in spite of his growing disdain of the pathetic 
and the eloquent, he became not infrequently the 
dupe of his own imagination. That which he 
took for the fruit of deduction was probably lit- 
tle more than ordinary hypochondria, and in 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 19 

turning as he did to other work, he was never 
able to free himself entirely from the jealous in- 
fluence of the muse. 

He was, from a variety of causes, very miser- 
able himself, and his belief in universal misery 
amounted very nearly to a mania. His logic re- 
duced itself to the paraphrase of an axiom, " I 
am, therefore I surfer," and the suffering which 
he experienced was not, he was very sure, limited 
solely to himself. It was, he considered, the gar- 
ment and appanage of every sentient being. In 
this he was perfectly correct, but his error con- 
sisted in holding all cases to be equally intense, 
and in imagining that means might be devised 
which would at once do away with or, at least, 
lessen the evil. Patience and resignation he had 
already suggested, but naturally without appre- 
ciable success ; indeed, the regeneration of man, 
he clearly saw, was not to be brought about 
through verse, and he turned therefore to phi- 
losophy with a fixity of purpose, which was 
strengthened by the idea that he could work 
therein another revolution. This was in 1825. 
Leopardi at that time was in his twenty-seventh 
year, and the task to which he then devoted him- 
self was, he said, to be the sad ending of a miser- 
able life. His intention was to run the bitter 
truth to earth, to learn the obscure destinies of 
the mortal and the eternal, to discover the where- 
fore of creation, and the reason of man's burden 
of misery. " I wish," he said, " to dig to the 
root of nature and seek the aim of the mysteri- 

2O The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

ous universe, whose praises the sages sing, and 
before which I stand aghast." 

Forthwith, then, in the " Operette Morale," 
Leopardi began a resolute, if poetic, siege against 
every form of illusion. His philosophy, however, 
provoked no revolution, nor can it be even said 
that he discovered any truth more bitter than the 
old new ones, which antiquity had unearthed be- 
fore him. His work, nevertheless, sent the old 
facts spinning into fresh and novel positions, and 
is to be particularly admired for the artistic man- 
ner in which it handles the most stubborn topics. 
The starting point of each of his arguments is 
that life is evil ; to any objection, and the objec- 
tions that have been made are countless, Leo- 
pardi has one invariable reply, " All that is ad- 
vanced to the contrary is the result of illusion." 
" But supposing life to be painless," some one 
presumably may interject, whereupon Leopardi, 
with the air of an oracle, too busy with weighty 
matters to descend to chit-chat on the weather, 
will answer tersely, " Evil still." 

It is useless for the practical man of the day, 
who knows the price of wheat the whole world 
over before he has tasted his coffee, and who 
digests a history of the world's doings and mis- 
doings each morning with his breakfast, it is 
useless for him to say, as he invariably does : 
Why, this is rubbish, look at modern institutions, 
look at progress, look at science ; for if he listens 
to Leopardi he will learn that all these palpable 
advantages have, in expanding activity, only ag- 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 21 

gravated the misery of man. In other words, that 
the sorrows of men and of nations develop in 
proportion to their intelligence, and the most 
civilized are in consequence the most unhappy. 

Indeed, Leopardi's philosophy is nothing if not 
destructive ; he does not aim so much to edify as 
to undermine. According to his theory the uni- 
verse is the resultant of an unconscious force, 
and this force, he teaches, is shrouded in a vex- 
atious mystery, behind which it is not given to 
man to look. In one of his dialogues, certain 
mummies resurrect for a quarter of an hour and 
tell in what manner they died. " And what fol- 
lows death ? " their auditor asks, eagerly. But 
the quarter of an hour has expired and the mum- 
mies relapse into silence. 

In another fantastic scene, an Icelander, con- 
vinced that happiness is unattainable, and solely 
occupied in avoiding pain, has, in shunning so- 
ciety, found himself in the heart of the Sahara, 
face to face with Nature. This Icelander, who, 
by the way, singularly resembles Leopardi, had 
found but one protection against the ills of life, 
and that was solitude ; but wherever he wandered 
he had been pursued by a certain malevolence. 
In spite of all he could do, he had roasted in 
summer and shivered in winter. In vain he had 
sought a temperate climate : one land was an ice- 
field, another an oven, and everywhere tempests 
or earthquakes, vicious brutes or distracting in- 
sects. In short, unalloyed misery. Finding him- 
self, at last, face to face with Nature he took her to 

22 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

task, demanding what right she had to create him 
without his permission, and then, having done so, 
to leave him to his own devices ? Nature answers 
that she has but one duty, and that is to turn the 
wheel of the universe, in which death supports 
life, and life death. " Well, then," the obstinate 
Icelander asks, " tell me at least for whose pleas- 
ure and for what purpose this miserable universe 
subsists ? " But before Nature can enlighten her 
embarrassing questioner, he is surprised by two 
famished lions and conveniently devoured. 

The moral of all this is not difficult to find. 
Life, such as it is, is all this is accorded. Be- 
yond it there is only an impenetrable silence. 
The blue of the heavens is pervasive, but void. 
The hope of ultramundane felicity is, therefore, 
an illusion, and man is to seek such happiness as 
is possible only in this life. But if it be asked 
what the possibilities of earthly happiness are, 
Leopardi is quick to tell his reader that there are 
none at all. 

As has been seen, he regarded life as an evil ; 
and he insisted in so regarding it, not only as 
a whole, but in each of its fractional divisions. 
This idea is quaintly expressed in a dialogue be- 
tween a sorcerer and a demon, the latter having 
been presumably summoned with an incantatory 
blue flame. The demon is somewhat sulky at 
first, and asks why he has been disturbed. Is it 
wealth that the sorcerer wishes ? Is it glory or 
grandeur ? But the sorcerer has neither greed 
nor ambition. 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 23 

" Do you wish me to procure for you a woman 
as captiously capricious as Penelope ? " 

The sorcerer probably smiles, for he answers 
wittily : 

" Do you think I need the aid of a devil for 
that ? " 

Thus outfaced, the demon begs to know in 
what manner he may be of service. 

" I simply want one moment of happiness," the 
sorcerer answers. 

But Mephisto declares, on his word as a gen- 
tleman, that such a thing is impossible, because 
the desire for happiness is insatiable, and no one 
can be happy so long as it is unsatisfied. 

" Well, then ? " the sorcerer asks, moodily quer- 

" Well, then," answers the demon, " if you 
think it worth while to give me your soul before 
the time, behold me ready to oblige you." 

Since happiness, then, is intangible, the wisest 
thing to do is to try to be as little unhappy as 
possible. One of the chief opponents to such 
a state of being is evidently discontent, and this, 
Leopardi hints, should be routed at any cost, 
and the yawning spectre of ennui flung with it 
into fettered exile. In the warmth of these in- 
structions it is curious to note how Leopardi 
turns on himself, so to speak, and recommends 
as cure-all the very activity which he had before 
proscribed. In his dialogue between Columbus 
and Gutierrez, the navigator admits to his dis- 
couraged companion that the success of the un- 

24 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

dertaking is far from certain ; " but," he adds, 
" even if no other benefit accrue from our voy- 
age, it will be an advantage at least in this ; it has 
for a certain time delivered us from boredom ; it 
has made us love life, and appreciate, moreover, 
many things of which otherwise we would have 
thought nothing." 

It should not, however, be supposed that Leo- 
pardi had no higher rule of life than that which 
is circumscribed in the narrow avoidance of dis- 
content. That man has certain duties to per- 
form, he frequently admitted, but he denied that 
he owed any to the unconscious and tyrannical 
force which had given him life. " I will never 
kiss," he said, " the hand that strikes." Any ob- 
ligation to society was equally out of the ques- 
tion. "Society," he noted in the Pensieri, "is 
a league of blackguards against honest men." 
Man's duties are to himself alone ; and the es- 
sence of Leopardi's ethics (as, indeed, of all other 
ethics) is held simply in the recommendation that 
virtue and self-esteem be preserved. " To thine 
own self be true," Polonius had said long before, 
and to this Leopardi had nothing to add. 

The illusions which hamper life have been so 
clearly and thoroughly analyzed by other think- 
ers, whose conclusions will be found to constitute 
the groundwork of the subsequent part of this 
monograph, that it will be unnecessary at this 
stage to examine any of Leopardi's theories on 
this subject, save such, perhaps, as may seem to 
contain original views. He had, as has been 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 25 

intimated, a thorough contempt for life : " It is," 
he 'said, "fit but to be despised." Nostra vita a 
che val, sola a spregiarla. He was, in consequence, 
well equipped to combat the illusion which leads 
so many to imagine that were their circumstances 
different, they would then be thoroughly content. 
This idea is presented with vivacious ingenuity 
in a dialogue between a man peddling calendars 
and a passer-by. 

It runs somewhat as follows : 

" Calendars ! New calendars ! " 

" For the coming year ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" Do you think the year will be a good one ? " 

"Yes, indeed, sir." 

" As good as last year ? " 

" Better, sir, better." 

" As year before last ? " 

" Much better, sir." 

" But would n't you care to have the next year 
like any of the past years ? " 

" No, sir, I would not." 

"For how long have you been selling calen- 
dars ? " 

" Nearly twenty years, sir." 

" Well, which of these twenty years would you 
wish to have like the coming one ? " 

" I ? I really don't know, sir." 

" Can't you remember any one year that seemed 
particularly attractive ? " 

" I cannot, indeed, I cannot." 

" And yet life is very pleasant, is n't it ? " 

26 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

" Oh, yes, sir, we all know that." 

" Would you not be glad to live these twenty 
years over again ? " 

" God forbid, sir." 

" But supposing you had to live your life over 
again ? " 

" I would not do it." 

" But what life would you care to live ? mine, 
for instance, or that of a prince, or of some other 
person ? " 

" Ah, sir, what a question ! " 

" And yet, do you not see that I, or the prince, 
or any one else, would answer precisely as you 
do, and that no one would consent to live his life 
over again ? " 

" Yes, sir, I suppose so." 

"Am I to understand, then, that you would 
not live your life over again ? " 

" No, sir, truly, I would not." 

" What life would you care for, then ? " 

" I would like, without any other condition, 
such a life as God might be pleased to give me." 

"In other words, one which would be happy- 
go-lucky, and of which you would know no more 
than you do of the coming year." 

" Exactly." 

" Well, then, that is what I would like too ; it 
is what every one would like, and for the sim- 
ple reason that up to this time there is no one 
whom chance has not badly treated. Every one 
agrees that the misery of life outbalances its 
pleasure, and I have yet to meet the man who 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 27 

would care to live his old life over. The life 
which is so pleasant is not the life with which we 
are personally acquainted ; it is another life, not 
the life that we have lived, but the life which is 
to come. Next year will treat us all better ; it 
will be the beginning of a happy existence. Do 
you not think it will ? " 

" Indeed, I hope so, sir." 

" Show me your best calendar." 

" This one, sir ; it is thirty soldi." 

" Here they are." 

" Thank you, sir, long life to you, sir. Calen- 
dars ! new calendars ! " 

There are few scenes as clever as this, and 
fewer still in which irony and humor are so deli- 
cately blended ; and yet, notwithstanding its stud- 
ied bitterness, there is little doubt that its author 
clearly perceived that life does hold one or two 
incontestable charms. 

In speaking of glory. Pascal noted in his " Pen- 
sees " that even philosophers seek it, and those 
who wrote it down wished the reputation of hav- 
ing written it down well. To this rule Leopardi 
was no exception ; he admitted as much on sev- 
eral occasions ; and even if he had not done so, 
the fact would have been none the less evident 
from the burnish of his verse and the purity of 
his prose, which was not that of a writer to 
whom the opinion of others was indifferent. In 
the essay, therefore, in which he attacks the illu- 
sion of literary renown, he reminds one forcibly 
of Byron hurrying about in search of the visible 

28 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

isolation which that simple-minded poet so seri- 
ously pursued ; and yet while no other writer, 
perhaps, has been more thoroughly given to pose 
than the author of " Childe Harold," there are 
few who have been so entirely devoid of affec- 
tation as Leopardi. The comparative non-suc- 
cess of his writings, however, was hardly calcu- 
lated to make him view with any great enthusiasm 
the subject of literary fame ; and as, moreover, 
he considered it his mission to besiege all illu- 
sions, he held up this one in particular as a se- 
ductive chimera and attacked it accordingly. 

In the "Ovvero della Gloria," he says reflect- 
ively : " Before an author can reach the public 
with any chance of being judged without preju- 
dice, think of the amount of labor which he ex- 
pends in learning how to write, the difficulties 
which he has to overcome, and the envious voices 
which he must silence. And even then, what 
does the public amount to ? The majority of 
readers yawn over a book, or admire it because 
some one else has admired it before them. It is 
the style that makes a book immortal ; and as it 
requires a certain education to be a judge of 
style, the number of connoisseurs is necessarily 
restricted. But beyond mere form there must 
also be depth, and as each class of work presup- 
poses a special competence on the part of the 
critic, it is easy to see how narrow the tribunal is 
which decides an author's reputation. And even 
then, is it one which is thoroughly just ? In the 
first place, the critic, even when competent, 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 29 

judges and in that he is but human accord- 
ing to the impression of the moment, and accord- 
ing to the tastes which age or circumstances have 
created. If he is young, he likes brilliance ; old, 
he is unimpressionable. Great reputations are 
made in great cities, and it is there that heart 
and mind are more or less fatigued. A first im- 
pression, warped in this way, may often become 
final ; for if it be true that valuable works should 
be re-read, and are only appreciated with time, it 
is also true that at the present time very few 
books are read at all. Supposing, however, the 
most favorable case : supposing that a writer, 
through the suffrage of a few of his contempo- 
raries, is certain of descending to posterity as a 
great man, what is a great man ? Simply a 
name, which in a short time will represent noth- 
ing. The opinion of the beautiful changes with 
the days, and literary reputations are at the 
mercy of their variations ; as to scientific works, 
they are invariably surpassed or forgotten. Now- 
adays, any second-rate mathematician knows 
more than Galileo or Newton." Genius, then, is 
a sinister gift, and its attendant glory but a vain 
and empty shadow. 

The life of Leopardi, as told by his biogra- 
phers, is poetically suggestive of the story of the 
pale Armide, who burned the palace that en- 
chanted her; and the similarity becomes still more 
noticeable when he is found hacking and hewing 
at the illusion of love. Personally considered, 
Leopardi was not attractive ; he was undersized, 

3O The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

slightly deformed, near-sighted, prematurely bald, 
nervous, and weak; and though physical disad- 
vantages are often disregarded by women, and 
not infrequently inspire a compassion which, 
properly tended, may warm into love, yet when 
the body, weak and infirm as was his, incases the 
strength and lurid vitality of genius, the unlova- 
ble monstrosity is complete. Indeed, in this re- 
spect, it may be noted that while the love of a 
delicate-minded woman for a coarse and stupid 
ruffian is an anomaly of daily repetition, there are 
yet few instances in which genius, even when 
strong of limb, has succeeded in inspiring a great 
and enduring affection. 

Against Leopardi, then, the house of love was 
doubly barred. When he was about nineteen, he 
watched the usual young girl who lives over the 
way, and with a na'ivet'e which seems exquisitely 
pathetic he made no sign, but simply watched 
and loved. The young lady does not appear to 
have been in any way conscious of the mutely 
shy adoration which her beauty had fanned into 
flame, and at any rate paid no attention to the 
sickly dwarf across the street. She sat very plac- 
idly at her window, or else fluttered about the 
room humming some old-fashioned air. This 
went on for a year or more, until finally she was 
carried away in a rumbling coach, to become the 
willing bride of another. 

This, of course, was very terrible to Leopardi. 
Through some inductive process, which ought to 
have been brought about by the electric currents 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 31 

which he was establishing from behind the cur- 
tain, he had in his lawless fancy made quite sure 
that his love would sooner or later be felt and 
reciprocated. When, therefore, from his hiding 
place he saw the bride depart in maiden igno- 
rance of her conquest, and entirely unconscious 
of the sonnets which had been written in her 
praise, the poet's one sweet hope faded slowly 
with her. 

This pure and sedate affection remained vi- 
brant in his memory for many years, and formed 
the theme of so many reveries and songs that 
love finally appeared to him as but another form 
of suffering. In after life, when much of the 
lustre of youthful candor had become dull and 
tarnished, he besieged the heart of another lady, 
but this time in a bolder and more enterprising 
fashion. His suit, however, was unsuccessful. It 
may be that he was too eloquent ; for eloquence 
is rarely captivating save to the inexperienced, 
and the man who makes love in rounded phrases 
seems to the practised eye to be more artistic 
than sincere. At all events, his affection was not 
returned. The phantom had passed very close, 
but all he had clutched was the air. He was 
soon conscious, however, that he had made that 
mistake which is common to all imaginative peo- 
ple : it was not the woman he loved, it was beauty ; 
not woman herself, but the ideal. It was a con- 
ception that he had fallen in love with ; a concep- 
tion which the woman, like so many others, had 
the power to inspire, and yet lacked the ability 

32 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

to understand. This time Leopardi was done 
with love, and forthwith attacked it as the last, 
yet most tenacious, of all illusions. " It is," he 
said, " an error like the others, but one which is 
more deeply rooted, because, when all else is 
gone, men think they clutch therein the last 
shadow of departing happiness. Error beato," 
he adds, and so it may be, yet is he not well an- 
swered by that sage saying of Voltaire, " L'erreur 
aussi a son merite " ? 

It was in this way that Leopardi devastated the 
palace from whose feasts he had been excluded. 
At every step he had taken he had left some 
hope behind ; he had been dying piecemeal all 
his life ; he was confessedly miserable, and this 
not alone on account of his poverty and wretched 
health, but chiefly because of his lack of harmony 
with the realities of existence. The world was to 
him the worst one possible, and he would have 
been glad to adorn the gate of life with the sim- 
plicity of Dante's insistent line, 

" JLasciate ogni speranza voi ch' entrate." 

" There was a time," he said, " when I envied 
the ignorant and those who thought well of them- 
selves. To-day, I envy neither the ignorant nor 
the wise, neither the great nor the weak ; I envy 
the dead, and I would only change with them." 

This, of course, was purely personal. Toward 
the close of his life he recognized that his judg- 
ment had been in a measure warped by the pe- 
culiar misfortunes of his own position, but in so 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 33 

doing he seemed almost to be depriving himself 
of a last, if sad, consolation. Nor did he ever 
wholly recant, and it is in the conception of the 
universality of misery which stamped all his writ- 
ings, and which, even had he wished, he was then 
powerless to alter, that his relation to the theo- 
retic pessimism of to-day chiefly rests. 

As a creed, the birthplace of pessimism is to 
be sought on the banks of the Ganges, or far back 
in the flower-lands of Nepaul, where the initiate, 
with every desire lulled, awaits Nirvana, and mur- 
murs only, " Life is evil." 

Now, as is well known, in every religion there 
is a certain metaphysical basis which is designed 
to supply an answer to man's first question ; for 
while the animal lives in undismayed repose, 
man of all created things alone marvels at his 
own existence and at the destruction of his fel- 
lows. To his first question, then, What is life 
and death ? each system attempts to offer a per- 
fect reply ; indeed, the temples, cathedrals, and 
pagodas clearly attest that man at all times and 
in all lands has continually demanded that some 
reply should be given, and it is perhaps for this 
very reason that where other beliefs have found 
fervent adherents, neither materialism nor skep- 
ticism have been ever able to acquire a durable 
influence. It is, however, curious to note that 
in attempting the answer, nearly every creed has 
given an unfavorable interpretation to life. Aside 
from the glorious lessons of Christianity, its teach- 
ing, in brief, is that the world is a vale of tears, 

34 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

that nothing here can yield any real satisfaction, 
and that happiness, which is not for mortals, is 
solely the recompense of the ransomed soul. To 
the Brahmin, while there is always the hope of 
absorption in the Universal Spirit, life meanwhile 
is a regrettable accident. But in Buddhism, which 
is perhaps the most naive and yet the most sub- 
lime of all religions, and which through its very 
combination of simplicity and grandeur appeals 
to a larger number of adherents than any other, 
pessimism is the beginning, as it is the end. 

To the Buddhist there is reality neither in the 
future nor in the past. To him true knowledge 
consists in the perception of the nothingness of 
all things, in the consciousness of 

" The vastness of the agony of earth, 
The vainness of its joys, the mockery 
Of all its best, the anguish of its worst ; " 

and in the desire to escape from the evil of exist- 
ence into the entire affranchisement of the intel- 
ligence. To the Buddhist, 

..." Sorrow is 
Shadow to life, moving where life doth move." 

The Buddhist believes that the soul migrates until 
Nirvana is attained, and that in the preparation 
for this state, which is the death of Death, the 
nothingness of a flame extinguished, there are 
four degrees. In the first, the novitiate learns 
to be implacable to himself, yet charitable and 
compassionate to others. He then acquires an 
understanding into the nature of all things, until 

The Genesis of Disenchantment. 35 

he has suppressed every desire save that of at- 
taining Nirvana, when he passes initiate into the 
second degree, in which judgment ceases. In the 
next stage, the vague sentiment of satisfaction, 
which had been derived from intellectual perfec- 
tion, is lost, and in the last, the confused con- 
sciousness of identity disappears. It is at this 
point that Nirvana begins, but only begins and 
stretches to vertiginous heights through four 
higher degrees of ecstasy, of which the first is the 
region of infinity in space, the next, the realm of 
infinity in intelligence, then the sphere in which 
nothing is, and, finally, the loss of even the per- 
ception of nothing. When Death is dead, when 
all have attained Nirvana, then, according to the 
Buddhist, the universe will rock forevermore in 
unconscious rest. 

In brief, then, life to the Christian is a proba- 
tion, to the Brahmin a burden, to the Buddhist a 
dream, and to the pessimist a nightmare. 



ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER, the founder of the 
present school, was born toward the close of the 
last century, in the now mildewed city of Dantzic. 
His people came of good Dutch stock, and were 
both well-to-do and peculiar. His grandmother 
lost her reason at the death of her husband, a 
circumstance as unusual then as in more recent 
years; his two uncles passed their melancholy 
lives on the frontiers of insanity, and his father 
enjoyed a reputation for eccentricity which his 
end fully justified. 

This latter gentleman was a rich and energetic 
merchant, of educated tastes and excitable dis- 
position, who, when well advanced in middle life, 
married the young and gifted daughter of one of 
the chief magnates of the town. Their union 
was not more unhappy than is usually the case 
under similar circumstances, his time being gen- 
erally passed with his ledger, and hers with the 

With increasing years, however, his untamable 
petulance grew to such an extent that he was not 
at all times considered perfectly sane, and it is 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 37 

related that on being visited one day by a life- 
long acquaintance, who announced himself as an 
old friend, he exclaimed, with abrupt indignation, 
" Friend, indeed ! there is no such thing ; besides, 
people come here every day and say they are this, 
that, and the other. I don't know them, and I 
don't want to." A day or two later, he met the 
same individual, greeted him with cheerful cor- 
diality, and led him amiably home to dinner. 
Shortly after, he threw himself from his ware- 
house to the canal below. 

He had always intended that his son, who was 
then in his sixteenth year, should continue the 
business ; and to prepare him properly for his 
duties he had christened him Arthur, because he 
found that name was pretty much the same in all 
European languages, and furthermore had sent 
the lad at an early age first to France, and then 
to England, that he might gain some acquaint- 
ance and familiarity with other tongues. 

The boy liked his name, and took naturally to 
languages, but he felt no desire to utilize these 
possessions in the depressing atmosphere of com- 
mercial life, and after his father's death loitered 
first at the benches of Gotha and then at those 
of Gottingen. 

Meanwhile his mother established herself at 
Weimar, where she soon attracted to her all that 
was brilliant in that brilliant city. Goethe, Wie- 
land, Fernow, Falk, Grimm, and the two Schle- 
gels were her constant guests. At court she was 
received as a welcome addition, and such an ef- 

38 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

feet had these surroundings upon her imagina- 
tion, that in not very many years she managed to 
produce twenty-four compact volumes of criticism 
and romance. 

During this time her son was not idle. Thor- 
oughly familiar with ancient as with modern lit- 
erature, he devoted his first year at Gottingen 
to medicine, mathematics and history ; while in 
his second, which he passed in company with 
Bunsen and William B. Astor, he studied physics, 
physiology, psychology, ethnology and logic ; as 
these diversions did not quite fill the hour, he 
aided the flight of idle moments with a guitar. 

He was at this time a singularly good-looking 
young man, possessing a grave and expressive 
type of beauty, which in after years developed 
into that suggestion of majestic calm for which 
the head of Beethoven is celebrated, while to his 
lips there then came a smile as relentlessly im- 
placable as that of Voltaire. 

From boyhood he had been of a thoughtful 
disposition, finding wisdom in the falling leaf, 
problems in vibrating light, and movement in 
immobility. Already he had wrung his hands at 
the stars, and watched the distant future rise with 
its flouting jeer at the ills of man. In this, how- 
ever, there was little of the cheap sentimentalism 
of Byron, and less of the weariness of Lamar- 
tine. His griefs were purely objective ; life to 
him was a perplexing riddle, whose true meaning 
was well worth a search ; and as the only possi- 
ble solution of the gigantic enigma seemed to lie 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 39 

in some unexplored depth of metaphysics, he 
soon after betook himself to Berlin, where Fichte 
then reigned as Kant's legitimate successor. But 
the long-winded demonstrations that Fichte af- 
fected, his tiresome verbiage, lit, if at all, only by 
some trivial truism or trumpery paradox, bored 
Schopenhauer at first well-nigh to death, and 
then worked on his nerves to such an extent that 
he longed, pistol in hand, to catch at his throat, 
and cry, " Die like a dog you shall ; but for your 
pitiful soul's sake, tell me if in all this rubbish 
you really mean anything, or take me simply for 
an imbecile like yourself." For Schopenhauer, it 
should be understood, had passed his nights first 
with Plato and then with Kant ; they were to 
him like two giants calling to one another across 
the centuries, and that this huckster of phrases 
should pretend to cloak his nakedness with their 
mantle seemed to him at once indecent and ab- 

Schelling pleased him no better ; he dismissed 
him with a word, mountebank ; but for Hegel, 
Caliban-Hegel as he was wont in after years to 
call him, his contempt was so violent that, with a 
prudence which is both amusing and characteris- 
tic, he took counsel from an attorney as to the 
exact limit he might touch in abusing him with- 
out becoming amenable to a suit for defamation. 
" Hegel's philosophy," he said, " is a crystalized 
syllogism ; it is an abracadabra, a puff of bom- 
bast, and a wish-wash of phrases, which in its 
monstrous construction compels the mind to form 

4O The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

impossible contradictions, and in itself is enough 
to cause an entire atrophy of the intellect." " It 
is made up of three fourths nonsense and one 
fourth error; it contains words, not thoughts;" 
and then, rising in his indignation to the heights 
of quotation, he added, " ' Such stuff as madmen 
tongue and brain not.' " Time, it may be noted, 
has to a great extent indorsed Schopenhauer's 
verdict. The tortures of Fichte, Schelling, and 
Hegel linger now in the history of philosophy 
very much as might the memory of a nightmare, 
and except in a few cobwebbed halls the teach- 
ings of the three sophists may safely be consid- 
ered as a part of the inexplicable past. 

It should not, however, be supposed that be- 
cause he found the philosophy of the moment 
so little to his taste he necessarily squandered 
his time ; on the contrary, he turned to Aristotle 
and Spinoza for consolation, and therewith fol- 
lowed sundry lectures in magnetism, electricity, 
ichthyology, amphiology, ornithology, zoology, 
and astronomy, all of which he enlivened with 
rapid incursions to the rich granaries of Rabelais 
and Montaigne, and moreover gave no little time 
to the study of the religion and philosophy of 

It was at this time characteristic of the man, 
that while his appearance, wealth, and connec- 
tions would have formed an open letter to the 
best society in Berlin, which was then heteroge- 
neously agreeable, or even to the worst, which is 
said to have been charming, he preferred to pass 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 41 

his leisure hours in scrutinizing the animals in 
the Zoological Gardens, and in studying the in- 
mates of the State Lunatic Asylum. 

In this cita dolente his attention was particularly 
claimed by two unfortunates who, while perfectly 
conscious of their infirmity, were yet unable to 
master it ; in proof of which, one wrote him a 
series of sonnets, and the other sent him anno- 
tated passages from the Bible. 

In the second year of his student life at Berlin 
the war of 1813 was declared, and Schopenhauer 
was in consequence obliged to leave the city be- 
fore he had obtained his degree. He prepared, 
however, and forwarded to the faculty at Jena an 
elaborate thesis, which he entitled the Quadru- 
ple Root of Conclusive Reason, a name which 
somewhat astounded his mother, who asked him 
if it were something for the apothecary, and 
meanwhile prowled about Weimar meditating on 
the philosophy which he had long intended to 
produce. He visited no one but Goethe, took 
umbrage at his mother's probably harmless rela- 
tions with Fernow, treated her to discourse not 
dissimilar to that which Hamlet had addressed 
to his own parent, received his degree from Jena, 
and then went off to Dresden, where he began to 
study women with that microscopic eye which 
he turned on all subjects that engaged his atten- 

The result of these studies was an essay on 
the metaphysics of love, which he thereupon at- 
tached to his budding system of philosophy ; an 

42 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

axiom to the effect that women are rich in hair 
and poor in thought ; and the same misadventure 
that befell Descartes. 

His life at Dresden was necessarily much less 
secluded than that to which he had been hitherto 
accustomed ; he became an habitut at the opera 
and comedy, a frequent guest in literary and so- 
cial circles, and, as student of men and things, 
he went about disturbing draperies and disar- 
ranging screens, very much as any other phi- 
losopher might do who was bent on seeing the 

Meanwhile, he was not otherwise idle: the 
morning he gave to work, and in the afternoon 
he surrendered himself to Nature, whom he loved 
with a passionate devotion, which increased with 
his years. The companionship of men was al- 
ways more or less irksome to him ; and while it 
was less so perhaps at this time than at any 
other, it was nevertheless with a sense of relief 
that he struck out across the inviting pasture- 
lands of Saxony, or down the banks of the Elbe, 
and left humanity behind, in search of that open- 
air solitude which is Nature's nearest friend. 

In the companionship of others he was con- 
stantly seeking a trait or a suggestion, some hint 
capable of development ; when in the world, 
therefore, he flashed a lantern, so to speak, at 
people, and then passed them by ; but in the 
open country he communed with himself, and 
strolled along, note-book in hand, jotting down 
the thoughts worth jotting very much after the 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 43 

manner that Emerson is said to have recom- 

With regard to the majority of men, it will 
not seem reckless to say that their end and aim 
is happiness and self-satisfaction ; but however 
trite the remark may be, it may still perhaps 
serve to bring into relief something of Schopen- 
hauer's distinctive purpose. It would, of course, 
be foolish to assert that he did not care for his 
own happiness, and disregarded his own satisfac- 
tion, for of these things few men, it is imagined, 
have thought more highly. If his ideas of happi- 
ness diverged widely from those generally received 
as standards, it has but little to do with the mat- 
ter in hand, for the point which is intended to 
be conveyed is simply that above all other things, 
beyond the culture of self, that which Schopen- 
hauer cared for most was truth, and that he pur- 
sued it, moreover, as pertinaciously as any other 
thinker whom the world now honors. Whether 
he ran it to earth or not, the reader must him- 
self decide ; indeed, it was very many years be- 
fore any one even heard that he had been chas- 
ing it at all. Of late, however, some of the best 
pickets who guard the literary outposts from Bos- 
Ion to Bombay have brought a very positive as- 
surance that he did catch it, and, moreover, held 
it fast long enough to wring out some singularly 
valuable intimations. 

In hurrying along after his quarry, Schopen- 
hauer became convinced that life was a lesson 
which most men learned trippingly enough, but 

44 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

whose moral they failed to detect ; and this 
moral, which he felt he had caught on the wing, 
as it were, he set about dissecting with a great 
and sumptuous variety of reflection. 

Wandering, then, on the banks of the Elbe, 
massing his thoughts and arranging their pro- 
gression, his system slowly yet gradually expanded 
before him. He wrote only in moments of in- 
spiration, yet his hours were full of such mo- 
ments ; little by little he drifted away from the 
opera and his friends into a solitude which he 
made populous with thought, and in this manner 
gave himself up so entirely to his philosophy that 
one day, it is reported, he astonished an innocent- 
minded gate-keeper, who asked him who he was, 
with the weird and pensive answer, " Ah ! if I 
but knew, myself ! " 

Meanwhile his work grew rapidly beneath his 
hands, and when after four years of labor and 
research " Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung " 
was so far completed as to permit its publication, 
he read it over with something of the same un- 
familiarity which he would have experienced in 
reading the work of another author, though, 
doubtless, with greater satisfaction. 

Fascinated with its merits, he offered the manu- 
script to Brockhaus, the Leipsic publisher. " My 
book," he wrote, " is a new system of philosophy, 
but when I say new I mean new in every sense 
of the word ; it is not a restatement of what has 
been already expressed, but it is in the highest 
degree a continuous flow of thought such as has 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 45 

never before entered the mind of mortal man. 
It is a book which, in my opinion, is destined to 
rank with those which form the source and incen- 
tive to hundreds of others." 

Brockhaus, familiar with the proverbial mod- 
esty of young authors, lent but an inattentive ear 
to these alluring statements, and accepted the 
book solely on account of the reputation which 
Schopenhauer's mother then enjoyed ; a mark of 
confidence, by the way, which he soon deeply re- 
gretted. " It is so much waste paper," he said, 
dismally, in after years ; " I wish I had never 
heard of it." He lived long enough, however, to 
change his mind, and in 1880 his successors pub- 
lished a stout little pamphlet containing the titles 
of over five hundred books and articles, of which 
the " World as Will and Idea " formed the source 
and incentive. " Le monde," Montaigne has 
quaintly noted, " regorge de commentaires, mais 
d'auteurs il en est grand chierteV' 

Schopenhauer's philosophy first appeared in 
1818; but while it was still in press, its author, 
like one who has sprung a mine and fears the re- 
port, fled away to Italy, where he wandered about 
from Venice to Naples bathing his senses in color 
and music. He associated at this time very will- 
ingly with Englishmen, and especially with Eng- 
lish artists and men of letters. Germans and 
Americans he avoided, and as for Jews, he not 
only detested them, but expressed an admiring 
approval of Nebuchadnezzar, and only regretted 
that he had been so lenient with them. " The 

46 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

Jews are God's chosen people, are they ? " he 
would say, " very good ; tastes differ, they cer- 
tainly are not mine." In this dislike he made no 
exception, and scenting in after years some of 
the factor judaicus on Heine and Meyerbeer, he 
refused them the attention which others were only 
too glad to accord. Schopenhauer's distaste, how- 
ever, for everything that savored of the Israelite 
will be perhaps more readily understood when it 
is remembered that the Jews, as a race, are op- 
timists, and their creed, therefore, to him, in his 
consistency, was like the aggressive flag to the 
typical bull. 

With the Germans he had another grievance. 
"The Germans," he said, "are heavy by nature ; 
it is a national characteristic, and one which is 
noticeable not only in the way they carry them- 
selves, but in their language, their fiction, their 
conversation, their writings, their way of think- 
ing, and especially in their style and in their 
mania for constructing long and involved sen- 
tences. In reading German," he continued, 
" memory is obliged to retain mechanically, as 
in a lesson, the words that are forced upon it, 
until after patient labor a period is reached, the 
keynote is found, and the meaning disentangled. 
When the Germans," he added, "get hold of a 
vague and unsuitable expression which will com- 
pletely obscure their meaning, they pat them- 
selves on the back ; for their great aim is to leave 
an opening in every phrase, through which they 
may seem to come back and say more than they 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 47 

thought. In this trick they excel, and if they 
can manage to be emphatic and affected at the 
same time, they are simply afloat in a sea of joy. 
Foreigners hate all this, and revenge themselves 
in reading German as little as possible. . . . 
Wherefore, in provision of my death, I acknowl- 
edge that on account of its infinite stupidity I 
loathe the German nation, and that I blush to 
belong thereto." 

At various tables-d* hbte Schopenhauer had en- 
countered traveling Yankees, and objected to 
them accordingly. "They are," he said, "the 
plebs of the world, partly, I suppose, on account 
of their republican government, and partly be- 
cause they descend from those who left Europe 
for Europe's good. The climate, too," he added, 
reflectively, " may have something to do with it." 
Nor did Frenchmen escape his satire. " Other 
parts of the world have monkeys; Europe has 
Frenchmen, fa balance" 

But with Englishmen he got on very well, and 
during his after life always talked to himself in 
their tongue, wrote his memoranda in English, 
and read the " Times " daily, advertisements and 

Meanwhile Schopenhauer held his hand to his 
ear unavailingly. From across the Alps there 
came to him no echo of any report, only a silence 
which was ominous enough to have assured any 
other that the fusee had not been properly ap- 
plied. But to him it was different ; he had, it is 
true, expected a reverberation which would shake 

48 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

the sophistry of all civilization, and when no 
tremor came he was mystified, but only for the 
moment. He had been too much accustomed to 
seek his own dead in the great morgue of litera- 
ture not to know that any man, who is to belong 
to posterity, is necessarily a stranger to his epoch. 
And that he was to belong to posterity he had no 
possible doubt ; indeed he had that prescience of 
genius which foresees its own future, and he felt 
that however tightly the bushel might be closed 
over the light, there were still crevices through 
which it yet would shine, and from which at last 
some conflagration must necessarily burst. 

It was part of the man to analyze all things, 
and while it cannot be said that the lack of at- 
tention with which his philosophy had been re- 
ceived left him entirely unmoved, it would be 
incorrect to suppose that he was then sitting on 
the pins and needles of impatience. 

Deeply reflective, he was naturally aware that 
as everything which is exquisite ripens slowly, so 
is the growth of fame proportioned to its durabil- 
ity. And Schopenhauer meant to be famous, and 
this not so much for fame's sake, as for the good 
which his fame would spread with it. He could 
therefore well afford to wait. His work was not 
written especially to his own epoch, save only in 
so far as his epoch was part of humanity collec- 
tively considered. It did not, therefore, take him 
long to understand that as his work was not 
tinted with any of the local color and fugitive 
caprices of the moment, it was in consequence 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 49 

unadapted to an immediate and fictitious vogue. 
Indeed, it may be added that the history of art 
and literature is eloquent with the examples of 
the masterpieces which, unrewarded by contem- 
porary appreciation, have passed into the wel- 
come of another age ; and of these examples few 
are more striking than that of the absolute indif- 
ference with which Schopenhauer's philosophy 
was first received. 

It was presumably with reflections of this na- 
ture that Schopenhauer shrugged his shoulders at 
the inattention under which he labored, and wan- 
dered serenely among the treasuries and ghosts 
of departed Rome. 

About this time an incident happened which, 
while not possessing any very vivid interest, so af- 
fected his after life as to be at least deserving of 
passing notice. Schopenhauer was then in his 
thirty-first year. On coming of age, he had re- 
ceived his share of his father's property, some of 
which he securely invested, but the greater part 
he deposited at high interest with a well-known 
business house in Dantzic. When leaving for 
Italy, he took from this firm notes payable on 
demand for the amount which they held to his 
credit, and after he had cashed one of their bills, 
learned that the firm was in difficulties. Shortly 
after, they suspended payment, offering thirty 
per cent, to those of their creditors who were 
willing to accept such an arrangement, and noth- 
ing to those who refused. 

All the creditors accepted save Schopenhauer, 

50 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

who, with the wile of a diplomat, wrote that he 
was in no hurry for his money, but that perhaps 
if he were made preferred creditor he might ac- 
cept a better offer. His debtors fell into the 
trap, and offered him first fifty, and then seventy 
per cent. These offers he also refused. "If," 
he wrote, "you offer me thirty per cent, when 
you are able to pay fifty, and fifty per cent, when 
you are able to pay seventy^ I have good reason 
to suspect that you can pay the whole amount. 
In any event, my right is perennial. I need not 
present my notes until I care to. Settle with 
your other creditors, and then you will be in a 
better position to attend to me. A wise man 
watches the burning phoenix with a certain pleas- 
ure, for he well knows what that crafty bird does 
with its ashes. Keep my money, and I will keep 
your drafts. When your affairs are straightened 
either we will exchange, or you will be arrested 
for debt. I am, of course, very sorry not to be 
able to oblige you, and I dare say you think me 
very disagreeable, but that is only an illusion of 
yours, which is at once dispelled when you re- 
member that the money is my own, and that its 
possession concerns my lifelong freedom and 
well-being. You will say, perhaps, that if all 
your creditors thought as I do, it would be deuced 
hard for me. But if all men thought as I do, 
not only would more be thought, but there would 
probably be neither bankrupts nor swindlers. 
Machiavelli says, Giacche il volgo pensa altri- 
mente, although the common herd think oth- 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 51 

wise, ma nel mondo non 6 se non volgo, and 
the world is made up of the common herd, e 
gli pocchi ivi luogo trovano, yet the exceptions 
take their position, dove gli mold stare non 
possono, where the crowd can find no foot- 

By the exercise of a little patience, and after a 
few more dagger thrusts of this description, 
Schopenhauer recovered the entire amount which 
was due him, together with the interest in full. 
But the danger which he had so cleverly avoided 
gave him, so to speak, a retrospective shock ; the 
possibility of want had brushed too near for com- 
fort's sake. He was thoroughly frightened ; and 
in shuddering at the cause of his fright he expe- 
rienced such a feeling of insecurity with regard 
to what the future might yet hold that he deter- 
mined to lose no time in seeking a remunerative 
shelter. With this object he returned to Berlin, 
and as privat-docent began to lecture on the his- 
tory of philosophy. 

Hegel was then in the high tide of his glory. 
Scholars from far and near came to listen to the 
man who had compared himself to Christ, and 
said, " I am Truth, and teach truth." In the 
" Reisebilder," Heine says that in the learned 
caravansary of Berlin the camels collected about 
the fountain of Hegelian wisdom, kneeled down, 
received their burden of precious waters, and 
then set out across the desert wastes of Branden- 

At that time not to bend before Hegel was 

52 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

the blackest and most wanton of sins. To dis- 
agree with him was heretical, and as few under- 
stood his meaning clearly enough to attempt to 
controvert it, it will be readily understood that 
in those days there was very little heresy in Ber- 

Among the few, however, Schopenhauer headed 
the list. " I write to be understood," he said ; 
and indeed no one who came in contact with him 
or with his works had ever the least difficulty in 
seizing his meaning and understanding his im- 
mense disgust for the " pachyderm hydrocephali, 
pedantic eunuchs, apocaliptic retinue della bestia 
triumphante," as in after years, with gorgeous 
emphasis, he was wont to designate Hegel and 
his clique. The war that he waged against 
them was truly Homeric. He denounced Hegel 
in a manner that would have made Swinburne 
blush ; then he attacked the professors of phi- 
losophy in general and the Hegelians in partic- 
ular, and finally the demagogues who believed 
in them, and who had baptized themselves 
"Young Germany." 

For the preparation of such writings as theirs 
he had a receipt, which was homeopathic in its 
simplicity. " Dilute a minimum of thought in 
five hundred pages of nauseous phraseology, and 
for the rest trust to the German patience of the 
reader." He also suggested that for the wonder 
and astonishment of posterity every public li- 
brary should carefully preserve in half calf the 
complete works of the great philosophaster and 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 53 

his adorers ; and, considering very correctly that 
philosophers cannot be hatched like bachelors of 
arts, he further recommended that the course in 
philosophy should be cut from the University 
programmes, and the teaching in that branch be 
limited to logic. " You can't write an Iliad," he 
said, " when your mother is a dolt, and your fa- 
ther is a cotton nightcap." 

There are few debts which are so faithfully 
acquitted as those of contempt ; and as Scho- 
penhauer kicked down every screen, tore off 
every mask, and jeered at every sham, it would 
be a great stretch of fancy to imagine that he 
was a popular teacher. But this at least may be 
said : he was courageous, and he was strong of 
purpose. In the end, he dragged Germany from 
her lethargy, and rather than take any other part 
in Hegelism than that of spectre at the feast, he 
condemned himself to an almost lifelong obscur- 
ity. If, therefore, he seems at limes too bitter 
and too relentless, it should be remembered that 
this man, whom Germany now honors as one of 
her greatest philosophers, fought single-handed 
for thirty years, and routed the enemy at last by 
the mere force and lash of his words. 

But in the mean time, while Hegel was holding 
forth to crowded halls, his rival, who, out of sheer 
bravado, had chosen the same hours, lectured to 
an audience of about half a dozen persons, 
among whom a dentist, a horse-jockey, and a 
captain on half pay were the more noteworthy. 
Such listeners were hardly calculated to make 

54 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

him frantically attached to the calling he had 
chosen, and accordingly at the end of the first 
semester he left the empty benches to take care 
of themselves. 

Early in life Schopenhauer wrote in English, in 
his note-book, " Matrimony war and want ! " and 
when the privat-docent had been decently buried, 
and the crape grown rusty, he began to consider 
this little sentence with much attention. As will 
be seen later on, he objected to women as a class 
on purely logical grounds, they interfered with 
his plan of delivering the world from suffering ; 
but against- the individual he had no marked dis- 
like, only a few pleasing epigrams. During his 
Dresden sojourn, as in his journey to Italy, he 
had knelt, in his quality of philosopher who was 
seeing the world, at many and diverse shrines, 
and had in no sense wandered from them sorrow- 
laureled ; but all that had been very different 
from assuming legal responsibilities, and when- 
ever he thought with favor of the petits soins of 
which, as married man, he would be the object, 
the phantom of a milliner's bill loomed in double 
columns before him. 

Should he or should he not, he queried, fall 
into the trap which nature has set for all men ? 
The question of love did not enter into the mat- 
ter at all. He believed in love as most well- 
read people believe in William Tell ; that is, 
as something very inspiring, especially when 
treated by Rossini, but otherwise as a myth. 
Nor did he need Montaigne's hint to be assured 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 55 

that men marry for others and not for them- 
selves. The subject, therefore, was somewhat 
complex : on the one side stood the attention and 
admiration which he craved, and on the other 
an eternal farewell to that untrammeled freedom 
which is the thinker's natural heath. 

The die, however, had to be cast then or never. 
He was getting on in life, and an opportunity 
had at that time presented itself, a repetition of 
which seemed unlikely. After much reflection, 
and much weighing of the pros and cons, he 
concluded that it is the married man who sup- 
ports the full burden of life, while the bachelor 
bears but half, and it is to the latter class, he 
argued, that the courtesan of the muses should 
belong. Thereupon, with a luxury of reminis- 
cence and quotation which was usual to him at 
all times, he strengthened his resolution with 
mental foot-notes, to the effect that Descartes, 
Leibnitz, Malebranche, and Kant were bachelors, 
the great poets uniformly married and uniformly 
unhappy; and supported it all with Bacon's state- 
ment that " he that hath wife and children has 
given hostages to fortune, for they are impedi- 
ments to great enterprises, either of virtue or of 

In 1831 the cholera appeared in Berlin, and 
Schopenhauer, who called himself a choleraphobe 
by profession, fled before it in search of a milder 
and healthier climate. Frankfort he chose for 
his hermitage, and from that time up to the day 
of his death, which occurred in September, 1860, 

56 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

he continued to live there in great peace and 

Schopenhauer should in no wise be repre- 
sented as having passed his life in building dun- 
geons in Spain. Like every true scholar he was, 
in the absence of his peers, able to live with 
great comfort with the dead. He was something 
of a Mezzofanti ; he spoke and read half a dozen 
languages with perfect ease, and he could in con- 
sequence enter any library with the certainty of 
finding friends and relations therein. For the 
companionship of others he did not care a rap. 
He was never so lonely as when associating with 
other people, and of all things that he disliked 
the most, and a catalogue of his dislikes would 
fill a chapter, the so-called entertainment headed 
the obnoxious list. 

He had taken off, one by one, the different lay- 
ers of the social nut, and in nibbling at the kernel 
he found its insipidity so great that he had small 
approval for those who made it part of their ordi- 
nary diet. It should not, however, be supposed 
that this dislike for society and the companion- 
ship of others sprang from any of that necessity 
for solitude which is noticeable in certain cases of 
hypochondria ; it was simply due to the fact that 
he could not, in the general run of men, find any 
one with whom he could associate on a footing 
of equality. If Voltaire, Helvetius, Kant, or Ca- 
banais, or, for that matter, any one possessed of 
original thoughts, had dwelled in the neighbor- 
hood, Schopenhauer, once in a while, would have 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 57 

delighted in supping with them ; but as agreeable 
symposiasts were infrequent, he was of necessity 
thrown entirely on his own resources. His his- 
tory, in brief, is that of the malediction under 
which king and genius labor equally. Both are 
condemned to solitude j and for solitude such as 
theirs there is neither chart nor compass. Of 
course .there are many other men who in modern 
times have also led lives of great seclusion, but 
in this respect it may confidently be stated that 
no thinker of recent years, Thoreau not excepted, 
has ever lived in isolation more thorough and 
complete than that which was enjoyed by this 
blithe misanthrope. 

It is not as though he had betaken himself to 
an unfrequented waste, or to the top of an inac- 
cessible crag ; such behavior would have savored 
of an affectation of which he was incapable, and, 
moreover, would have told its story of an inabil- 
ity to otherwise resist the charms of society. Be- 
sides, Schopenhauer was no anchorite ; he lived 
very comfortably in the heart of a populous and 
pleasant city, and dined daily at the best table 
d'hote, but he lived and dined utterly alone. 

He considered that, as a rule, a man is never 
in perfect harmony save with himself, for, he 
argued, however tenderly a friend or mistress 
may be beloved, there is at times some clash and 
discord. Perfect tranquillity, he said, is found 
only in solitude, and to be permanent only in ab- 
solute seclusion ; and he insisted that the hermit, 
if intellectually rich, enjoys the happiest condi- 

58 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

tion which this life can offer. The love of soli- 
tude, however, can hardly be said to exist in any 
one as a natural instinct ; on the contrary, it may 
be regarded as an acquired taste, and one which 
must be developed in indirect progression. Scho- 
penhauer, who cultivated it to its most supreme 
expression, admitted that at first he had many 
fierce struggles with the natural instinct of socia- 
bility, and at times had strenuously combated 
some such Mephistophelian suggestion as, 

" H6r' auf, mit deinem Gram zu spielen, 
Der, wie ein Geier, dir am Leben frisst : 
Die schlechteste Gesellschaft lasst dich fiihlen 
Dass du ein Mensch, mit Menschen bist." 

But solitude, more or less rigid, is undoubtedly 
the lot of all superior minds. They may grieve 
over it, as Schopenhauer says, but of two evils 
they will choose it as the least. After that, it is 
presumably but a question of getting acclimated. 
In old age the inclination comes, he notes, al- 
most of itself. At sixty it is well-nigh instinc- 
tive ; at that age everything is in its favor. The 
incentives which are the most energetic in be- 
half of sociability then no longer act. With ad- 
vancing years there arises a capacity of sufficing 
to one's self, which little by little absorbs the 
social instinct. Illusions then have faded, and, 
ordinarily speaking, active life has ceased. There 
is nothing more to be expected, there are no 
plans nor projects to form, the generation to 
which old age really belongs has passed away, 
and, surrounded by a new race, one is then ob- 
jectively and essentially alone. 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 59 

Then, too, many things are clearly seen, which 
before were as veiled by a mist. As the result 
of long experience very little is expected from 
the majority of people, and the conclusion is gen- 
erally reached that not only men do not improve 
on acquaintance, but that mankind is made up of 
very defective copies, with which it is best to have 
as little to do as possible. 

But beyond converting his life into a mono- 
drama with reflections of this description, Scho- 
penhauer considered himself to be a missionary 
of truth, and in consequence as little fitted for 
every-day companionship as missionaries in China 
feel themselves called upon to fraternize with the 
Chinese. It was the rule of his life to expect 
nothing, desire as little as possible, and learn all 
he could, and as little was to be expected and 
nothing was to be learned from the majority of 
the dull ruffians who go to the making of the 
census, it is not to be wondered that he trod the 
thoroughfares of thought alone and dismissed 
the majority of men with a shrug. 

"They are," he said, "just what they seem to 
be, and that is the worst that can be said of 
them." Epigrams of this description were natu- 
rally not apt to increase his popularity. But for 
that he cared very little. He considered that no 
man can judge another save by the measure of 
his own understanding. Of course, if this under- 
standing is of a low degree, the greatest intel- 
lectual gifts which another may possess convey 
to him no meaning ; they are as colors to the 

60 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

blind ; and consequently, in a great nature there 
will be noticed only those defects and weaknesses 
which are inseparable from every character. 

But to such a man as Schopenhauer, one 
who considered five sixths of the population to 
be knaves or blockheads, and who had thought 
out a system for the remaining fraction, to such 
a man as he, the question of esteem, or the lack 
thereof, was of small consequence. He cared 
nothing for the existence which he led in the 
minds of other people. To his own self he was 
true, to the calling of his destiny constant, and 
he felt that he could sit and snap his fingers at 
the world, knowing that Time, who is at least a 
gentleman, would bring him his due unasked. 

Schopenhauer's character was made up of that 
combination of seeming contradictions which is 
the peculiarity of all great men. He had the au- 
dacity of childhood and the timidity of genius. 
He was suspicious of every one, and ineffably 
kind-hearted. With stupidity in any form he was 
blunt, even to violence, and yet his manner and 
courtesy were such as is attributed to the gentle- 
men of the old school. If he was an egotist, he 
was also charitable to excess ; and who shall say 
that charity is not the egotism of great natures ? 
He was honesty itself, and yet thought every one 
wished to cheat him. To mislead a possible thief 
he labeled his valuables Arcana Medica, put his 
banknotes in dictionaries, and his gold pieces in 
ink bottles. He slept on the ground floor, that he 
might escape easily in case of fire. If he heard 

The High Piiest of Pessimism. 61 

a noise at night he snatched at a pistol, which he 
kept loaded at his bedside. Indeed, he might 
have chosen for his motto, " Je ne crains rien 
fors le dangier," and yet who is ever so foolish as 
a wise man ? Kant's biography is full of similar 
vagaries, and one has but to turn to the history 
of any of the thinkers whose names are land- 
marks in literature, to find that eccentricities no 
less striking have also been recorded of them. 

Voltaire said, " On aime la vie, mais le neant 
ne laisse pas d'avoir du bon ;" and Schopenhauer, 
not to be outdone, added more massively, that if 
one could tap on the tombs and ask the dead 
if they cared to return, they would shake their 
heads. His views of life, however, and of the 
world in general, will be considered later on, and 
for the moment it is but necessary to note that 
he regarded happiness as consisting solely in the 
absence of pain, and laid down as one of the su- 
preme rules for the proper conduct of life that 
discontent should be banished as far as possible 
into the outer darkness. 

When, therefore, to this Emerson in black there 
came those moments of restlessness and dissatis- 
faction which visit even the most philosophic, he 
would argue with himself in a way which was al- 
most pathetic, and certainly naive ; it was not he 
that was moody and out of sorts, it was some 
privat-docent lecturing to empty halls, some one 
who was abused by the Philistines, some defend- 
ant in a suit for damages, some one whose for- 
tune was engulfed perhaps beyond recovery, 

62 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

some lover pleading to inattentive ears, some 
one attacked by one of the thousand ills that 
flesh is heir to ; yet this was not he ; these things 
truly he might have endured and suffered as one 
bears for a moment an ill-made shoe, but now 
the foot no longer ached ; indeed, he was none 
of all this, he was the author of the " Welt als 
Wille und Vorstellung," and what had the days 
to do with him ! 

But through all the intervening years the book 
had lain unnoticed on the back shelves of the 
Leipsic publisher ; and Schopenhauer, who had at 
first been puzzled, but never disheartened, at the 
silence which had settled about it, became con- 
vinced that through the influence of the three 
sophists at Berlin, all mention of its merit had 
been suppressed from the start. 

" I am," he said, " the Iron Mask, the Caspar 
Hauser of philosophy," and thereupon he pic- 
tured the Hegelians as looking admiringly at his 
system, very much as the man in the fairy tale 
looked at the genie in the bottle which, had he al- 
lowed it to come out, would carry him off. Truth, 
however, which is long-lived, can always afford to 
wait ; and Schopenhauer, with something of the 
complacency of genius that is in advance of its 
era, held his fingers on the public pulse and noted 
the quickening which precedes a return to con- 
sciousness. Germany was waking from her tor- 
por. Already the influence of Hegel had begun 
to wane; his school was split into factions, and 
his philosophy, which in solving every problem 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 63 

had left the world nothing to do but to bore it- 
self to death, was slowly falling into disrepute. 
Moreover, the great class of unattached scholars 
and independent thinkers, who cared as little for 
University dogmas as they did for the threats of 
the Vatican, were earnestly watching for some 
new teacher. 

Schopenhauer was watching too ; he knew that 
a change was coming, and that he would come 
in with the change. He had but to wait. " My 
extreme unction," he said, " will be my baptism j 
my death, a canonization." 

Meanwhile old age had come upon him un- 
awares, but with it the rich fruition of lifelong 
study and reflection. The perfect tranquility in 
which he passed his days had been utilized in 
strengthening and expanding his work, and in 
1843, in his fifty-sixth year, the second and com- 
plementary volume of his philosophy was com- 

Twelve months later he wrote to Brockhaus, 
his publisher : 

" I may tell you in confidence that I am so 
well pleased with this second volume, now that I 
see it in print, that I really think it will be a great 
success. ... If, now, in return for this great 
work, you are willing to do me a very little favor, 
and one that is easily performed, I will beg you 
each Easter to let me know how many copies 
have been sold." 

For two years he heard nothing, then in answer 
to a letter from him, Brockhaus wrote : 

64 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

" In reply to your inquiry concerning the sale 
of your book, I can only tell you that, to my sor- 
row, I have made a very poor business out of it. 
Further particulars I cannot enter into." 

" Many a rose," Schopenhauer murmured, as 
he refolded the note and turned to other things. 

In 1850, when, after six years' daily labor, he 
had completed his last work. " Parerga und Para- 
lipomena," his literary reputation was still so in- 
significant that Brockhaus refused to publish it. 
Schopenhauer then offered it, unavailingly, to half 
a dozen other publishers. No one would have any- 
thing to do with it ; the name which it bore would 
have frightened a pirate, and the boldest in the 
guild was afraid to examine its contents. " One 
thing is certain," said Schopenhauer, reflectively, 
" I am unworthy of my contemporaries, or they of 
me." The " Parerga," however, in spite of the 
lack of allurement in its title, was not destined 
to wither in manuscript. After much reconnoi- 
tring a publisher was discovered in Berlin who, 
unwillingly, consented to produce it, and there- 
upon two volumes of the most original and en- 
tertaining essays were given to the public. For 
this work Schopenhauer received ten copies in 
full payment. 

Meanwhile a few adherents had rallied about 
him. Brockhaus, in an attempt to make the best 
of a bad bargain, had marked the " Welt " down 
to the lowest possible price, and a few copies 
had in consequence fallen into intelligent hands. 
Amons: its readers there were some who came to 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 65 

Frankfort to make the author's acquaintance ; a 
proceeding which pleased, yet alarmed Schopen- 
hauer not a little. 

One of them wrote to people with whom he 
was unacquainted, advising them to read the 
work at once. " He is a fanatic," said Schopen- 
hauer, in complacent allusion to him, " a fanatic, 
that 's what he is." 

Dr. Gwinner, his subsequent biographer, whom 
he met about this time, was his apostle, while Dr. 
Frauenstadt, another Boswell, whose acquaint- 
ance he made at table d'hote, he called his arch- 
evangelist, and, not without pathos, repeated to 
him Byron's seductive lines, 

" In the desert a fountain is springing, 

In the white waste there still is a tree, 
And a bird in the solitude singing, 
That speaks to my spirit of thee." 

These gentlemen, together with a few others, 
made up a little band of sturdy disciples, who 
weni about wherever they could, speaking and 
writing of the merits of Schopenhauer's philoso- 
phy. But the first note of acclamation which, 
historically speaking, was destined to arouse the 
thinking world, came, curiously enough, from 

In 1853 the "Westminster Review" published 
a long and laudatory article on Schopenhauer's 
philosophy ; and this article Lindner, the editor 
of the "Vossiche Zeitung," to whom Schopen- 
hauer had given the title of doctor indcfatigabilis, 
reproduced in his own journal. In the following 

66 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

year Dr. Frauenstadt published, in a well-written 
pamphlet * which only needed a little more order 
and symmetry to be a valuable handbook, a com- 
plete exposition of the doctrine ; and the ap- 
plause thus stimulated reechoed all over Ger- 
many. The " Welt als Wille und Vorstellung," 
the " World as Will and Idea," which for so many 
years had lain neglected, was dragged from its 
musty shelf like a Raphael from a lumber-room ; 
and the fame to which Schopenhauer had not 
made a single step came to him as fame should, 
unsought and almost unbidden. 

" My old age," he said, " is brighter now than 
most men's youth, for time has brought its roses 
at last ; but see," he added, touching his silvered 
hair, " they are white." 

From all sides now came evidences of the most 
cordial recognition. The reviews and weeklies 
published anecdotes about him and extracts from 
his works. Indeed, it was evident that the Iron 
Mask had escaped, and that to Caspar Hauser 
light and air had at last been accorded. Think- 
ers, scholars, and philosophers, of all creeds and 
colors, became his attentive readers. Decora- 
tions were offered to him, which he unostenta- 
tiously refused. The Berlin Academy, within 
whose walls Hegel had reigned supreme, invited 
him to become one of its faculty. This honor 
he also declined. " They have turned their back 
on me all my life," he said, " and after my death 
they want my name to adorn their catalogues." 
1 Briefe iiber die Schopenhauer 1 sche Philosophic, 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 67 

His philosophy was lectured upon at Breslau, and 
the University of Leipsic offered it as a subject 
for a prize essay. All this was very pleasant. 
Much to his indignation, however, for he was by 
nature greatly disinclined to serve as pastime to 
an idle public, the " Illustrirte Zeitung" pub- 
lished his likeness, and added insult to injury by 
printing his name with two p's. Ah ! how truly 
has it been said that fame consists in seeing 
one's name spelt wrong in the newspapers ! 

One of the most flattering manifestations of 
this sudden vogue was the curiosity of the pub- 
lic, the number of enthusiasts that visited him, 
and the eagerness with which artists sought to 
preserve his features for posterity. To all this 
concert of praise it is difficult to say that Scho- 
penhauer lent a rebellious ear. The success of 
his philosophy of disenchantment enchanted him. 
He accepted with the seriousness of childhood 
the bouquets and sonnets which rained in upon 
him on his subsequent birthdays, and in his let- 
ters to Frauenstadt alluded to his ascending glory 
with innocent and amusing satisfaction : 

FRANKFORT, September 23, 1854. 
... A fortnight ago, a Dr. K., a teacher, came 
to see me ; he entered the room and looked so 
fixedly at me that I began to be frightened, and 
then he cried out, " I must look at you, I will 
look at you, I came to look at you." He was 
most enthusiastic. My philosophy, he told me, 
restored him to life. What next ? . 

68 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

June 29, 1855. 

. . . B. called to-day; he had been here for 
twenty-four hours under an assumed name, and 
after many hesitations came in a closed carriage 
to pay his respects. . . . On taking leave, he 
kissed my hand. I screamed with fright. . . . 

August 17, 1855. 

. . . My portrait, painted by Lunteschiitz, is 
finished and sold. Wiesike saw it in time, and 
bought it while it was still on the easel. But the 
unheard-of part of the whole matter is that he 
told me, and Lunteschutz too, that he was going 
to build a temple on purpose for it. That will 
be the first chapel erected in my honor. Recita- 
tivo, "Ja, ja, Sarastro herrschet hier." 1 What 
will be said of me, I wonder, in the year 2100? . . . 

September, 1855. 

. . . Received a number of visits. Baehr, the 
Dresden painter and professor, came ; he is a 
charming fellow, and pleased me very much. He 
knows all my works, and is full of them. He 
says, at Dresden every one is interested in them, 
especially the women, who, it appears, read me 
with passionate delight. Hornstein, a young 
composer, came also ; he is a pupil of Richard 
Wagner, who, it seems, is also one of my stu- 
dents. Hornstein is still here, and pays me an 
exaggerated respect; for instance, when I want 

1 " Yes, yes, Sarastro reigns herein." Air from the 
Magic Flute. 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 69 

my waiter, he rises from table to summon him. 
. . . My portrait has been for a fortnight at the 
exposition. There has been a great crowd to see 
it. Von Launitz, the Frankfort Phidias, wants to 
take my bust. . . . 

December 23, 1855. 

... A gentleman has written to me from Zu- 
rich to say that in the club to which he belongs 
my works are read with such admiration that the 
members are crazy to get a picture of me of any 
kind, nature, or description, and that the artist 
who takes it has but to forward it C. O. D. . . . 
You see that my fame is spreading like a confla- 
gration, and not in arithmetical ratio either, but 
in geometric, and even cubic. . . . 

March 28, 1856. 

... R., too, kissed my hand, a ceremony 
to which I cannot accustom myself ; yet it is one, 
I suppose, that forms part of my imperial dig- 
nity. . . . 

June 6, 1856. 

. . . Becher sent his son and nephew here, 
and Baehr sent his son also, and that only that 
these young people may in their old age be able 
to boast that they had seen and spoken to me. . . . 

June II, 1856. 

. . . Professor Baehr, of Dresden, was here 
yesterday, and, penetrated with the most praise- 
worthy enthusiasm, wished to exchange his beau- 
tiful silver snuff-box for my forlorn old leather 

7O The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

one. I refused, however. He told me of a cer- 
tain Herr von Wilde, who was a perfect fanatic 
on the subject of my philosophy, and who, at the 
age of eighty-five, died with my name on his lips. 
My Buddha, re-gilded, glittering on his pedes- 
tal, gives you his benediction. 

August 14, 1856. 

. . . Four pages and a half of Tallendier 
about me. 1 You have seen it, I suppose. French 
chatter, personal details, etc., but where the devil 
did he hear that I am " tout etonne du bruit que 
font mes ecrits dans le monde ? " I am so little 
astonished, that Emden told Nordwall, to the lat- 
ter's intense surprise, that I had predicted to him 
my future celebrity fully twenty years ago. . . . 

Now, mediocrity may, of course, be praised, 
but, as Balzac has put it, it is never discussed. 
And Schopenhauer, in the matter of discussion, 
came in for his full share. He was praised and 
abused by turn. Like every prominent figure, he 
made a good mark to fire at. Certain critics said 
that he had stolen from Fichte and Schelling 
everything in his philosophy that was worth read- 
ing, others abused him personally ; and one 
writer, a woman with whom he had refused to 
converse, and who had probably expected to pay 
her hotel bill with the protocol of his conversa- 
tion, wrote a quantity of scurrilous articles about 
him. But ccnsura perit, script 'urn manet. The 
1 An article in the Revue dcs Deux Mondes. 

The High Priest of Pessimism. JI 

criticisms are forgotten, while his work still en- 
dures and, moreover, grows each year into surer 
and stronger significance. 

Among his visitors at the time was M. Foucher 
de Carsil, and the portrait which that gentleman 
subsequently drew of him is so graphic that it is 
impossible to resist the temptation of making the 
following extract : l 

" When I first saw him, in 1859, at the Hotel 
d'Angleterre, at Frankfort, he was then an old 
man, with bright blue and limpid eyes. His lips 
were thin and sarcastic, and about them wan- 
dered a smile of shrewd intelligence. His high 
forehead was tufted on either side with puffs of 
white hair that gave to his physiognomy, lumi- 
nous as it was with wit and malice, a stamp of 
nobility and distinction. His garments, his lace 
jabot, his white cravat, reminded me of that 
school of gentlemen who lived toward the close 
of the reign of Louis XV. His manners were 
those of a man accustomed to the best society ; 
habitually reserved and timid even to suspicion, 
he rarely entered into conversation with any save 
his intimates and an occasional sympathetic trav- 
eler. His gestures were abrupt, and in conver- 
sation they became at once petulant and sugges- 
tive. He avoided discussions and combats in 
words, but he did so that he might the better 
enjoy the charm of familiar conversation. When 
he did speak, his imagination embroidered on the 
heavy canvas of the German tongue the most 
1 Hegel et Schopenhauer. Paris : Hachette et Cie. 

72 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

subtle and delicate arabesques that the Latin, 
Greek, French, English, or Italian languages were 
capable of suggesting. Indeed, when he cared 
to talk, his conversation possessed swing and 
precision, and joined thereto was a wealth of ci- 
tation, an exactitude of detail, and such tireless 
flow of wit, as held the little circle of his friends 
charmed and attentive until far into the night. 
His words, clear-cut and cadenced, captivated his 
listener wholly : they both pictured and analyzed, 
a tremulous sensitiveness heightened their fervor, 
they were precise and exact on every topic. A 
German, who had traveled extensively in Abys- 
sinia, was so astonished at the minute details 
which he gave on the different species of croco- 
diles, and their customs, that he thought that in 
him he recognized a former companion. 

" Happy are they who heard this last survivor 
of the conversationalists of the eighteenth cen- 
tury ! He was a contemporary of Voltaire and 
of Diderot, of Helvetius and of Chamfort ; his 
brilliant thoughts on women, on the part that 
mothers hold in the intellectual qualities of their 
children ; his theories, profoundly original, on the 
connection between will and mind ; his views on 
art and nature, on the life and death of the spe- 
cies ; his remarks on the dull and wearisome 
style of those who write to say nothing, or who 
put on a mask and think with the thoughts of 
others ; his pungent reflections on the subject of 
pseudonyms, and on the establishment of a lite- 
rary censure for those journals which permitted 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 73 

neologisms, solecisms, and barbarisms ; his in- 
genious hypotheses on magnetic phenomena, 
dreams, and somnambulism ; his hatred of ex- 
cess of every kind ; his love of order ; and his 
horror of obscurantism, ' qui, s'il n'est pas un 
pe'che' contre le Saint- Esprit en est un centre 
1'esprit humain,' make for him a physiognomy en- 
tirely different from any other of this century." 

A few tags and tatters of these conversations 
have been preserved by Dr. Frauenstadt, 1 and in 
them Schopenhauer is discovered sprawled at 
ease, and expressing himself on a variety of top- 
ics with a disinvoltura and freedom of epithet 
which recalls the earlier essayists. With them, 
as with him, periphrasis was avoided. Spades 
were spades, not horticultural implements ; and 
in one dialogue Frauenstadt compliments his 
master in having, in breadth and reach of his po- 
lemic, nothing in common with contemporary re- 
gard for ears polite. Citations of this class, how- 
ever, may well be omitted. A thinker in slippers, 
and especially in puris naturalibus, is generally 
unattractive even to those the least given to pru- 
dishness. But beyond certain instances of this 
description, the scholar and man of the world is 
usually very discernible. At times he is pro- 
found, at others vivacious ; for instance, he is 
asked what man would be if Nature, in making 
the last step which leads to him, had started from 
the dog or the elephant ; to which he answers, in 
that case man would be an intelligent dog or an 
1 Arthur Schopenhauer. Von ihm, Ueber ihn. Berlin. 

74 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

intelligent elephant, instead of being an intelli- 
gent monkey. As may be imagined, there was 
about Schopenhauer very little of the Sunday- 
school theologian, and religion was in conse- 
quence seldom viewed by him from an orthodox 
standpoint ; when, therefore, Schleiermacher was 
quoted before him to the effect that no man can 
be a philosopher who is not religious, he observed 
very quietly, " No man who is religious can be- 
come a philosopher, metaphysics are useless 
to him, and no true philosopher is religious ; he 
is sometimes in danger, but he is not fettered, he 
is free." Elsewhere he said, " Religion and phi- 
losophy are like the two scales of a balance ; the 
more one rises, the more does the other descend." 
In Schopenhauer's opinion, the greatest novels 
were "Tristram Shandy," " Wilhelm Meister," 
"Don Quixote," and the "Nouvelle He'loi'se." 
To " Don Quixote " he ascribed an allegorical 
meaning, but as an intellectual romance he pre- 
ferred "Wilhelm Meister" to all others. He 
believed in clairvoyance, but not that man is a 
free agent ; and it may be here noted that, ac- 
cording to the most recent scientific opinion, man 
is a free agent, at most, about once in twenty-four 
hours. " Everything that happens, happens nec- 
essarily," he would say ; and it was with this 
maxim, of whose truth he had a variety of every- 
day examples, and with the aid of the theory of 
the ideality of time, that he explained second 
sight. " Everything is now that is to be," he 
said ; " but with our ordinary eyes we do not see 

The High Priest of Pessimism. 75 

it ; the clairvoyant merely puts on the spectacles 
of Time." 

In the "Paranesen und Maximen," in which 
Schopenhauer chats quietly with the reader and 
not with the disciple, many quaint and forcible 
suggestions are to be found. For instance, among 
other things, he says, " I accord my entire re- 
spect to any man who, when unoccupied, and 
waiting for something, does not immediately begin 
to beat a tattoo with his fingers, or toy with the 
object nearest his hand. It is probable that such 
a man has thoughts of his own." His advice, 
too, on the manner in which we should think and 
work is quite Emersonian in its directness. It 
was, it may be added, the manner in which he 
thought and worked, himself : " Have compart- 
ments for your thoughts and open but one of 
them at a time ; in this way each little pleasure 
you may have will not be spoiled by some lum- 
bering care ; neither will one thought drive out 
another, and an important matter will not swamp 
a lot of smaller ones." 

Such, vaguely outlined, was this great and in- 
teresting figure. With the appearance of the 
" Parerga " his work was done. He lived ten 
years longer in great seclusion, receiving only in- 
frequent visits. " There, where two or three are 
gathered together," he would say, and suggested 
that his friends and believers should meet and 
consult without him. Such literary labor as he 
then performed consisted mainly in strengthen- 
ing that which he had already written, and in 

76 The Philosophy of DisencJiantment. 

making notes and suggestions for future editions. 
At the age of seventy-two he died, very peace- 
fully though suddenly, leaving all his fortune to 
charitable purposes. 

In these pages no attempt has been made to 
enter into the details of biography, for that pleas- 
ant task has been already well performed by 
other and better equipped pens. The present 
writer has therefore only sought to present such 
a view of Schopenhauer as might aid the general 
reader to a clearer understanding of the doctrine 
which he was the first to present, and which will 
be briefly considered in the next chapter. 



IN the Munich beer halls, when one student 
is heard laying down the law about something 
which he does not understand to a companion 
who cares not a rap on the subject, it is very 
generally taken for granted that the two are talk- 
ing metaphysics. Indeed, metaphysics has a bad 
name everywhere. In itself, it suggests nothing 
very enticing, and even its nomenclature seems to 
bring with it a sort of ponderosity which is very 
nearly akin to the repulsive. 

This prejudice, of course, is not without its 
reason. The philosophers, nearly one and all, 
seem to have banded themselves into a sort of 
imaginary freemasonry, whose portals they bar to 
any one refusing to robe his thoughts in a gar- 
ment of technical speech. Moreover, at the very 
gateway of their guild there looms before the 
timorous the fear of a hideous initiation, the cold 
douche of logic, and the memorizing of hateful 
terms. There can therefore be no stronger proof 
of Schopenhauer's ability than that which is con- 
tained in the fact that he successfully eluded all 
these stale abuses, and turned one of the heav- 

78 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

iest kinds of writing into one of the most agree- 

Indeed, Schopenhauer is not only one of the 
most profound thinkers of the essentially pro- 
found nineteenth century, but, what is still more 
noteworthy, he is an exceptionably fascinating 
teacher. His spacious theories and tangential 
flights are, of course, not such as charm the 
reader of the penny dreadful ; but any one who 
is interested in the drama of evolution and the 
tragi-comedy of life will, it is believed, find in 
him a fund of curious information, such as no 
other thinker has had the power to convey. 

He has, it is true, made the most of the worst ; 
but beyond this reproach, but one other of seri- 
ous import remains to be brought against him, 
and that is that though he has been dead and 
buried for very nearly a quarter of a century, he 
is still on the outer margin of his epoch. For 
this he is not, of course, entirely to blame. There 
are among thinkers many pleasant optimists still, 
who form a respectable majority ; to be sure, a 
wise man once said that in considering a new 
subject the minority were always right ; but, dis- 
regarding for the moment the fallacy of believing 
that this world is the best one possible, it cannot 
but be admitted that scientific pessimism is still 
in its infancy. It has yet many prejudices to dis- 
arm, and many errors of its own to correct. Like 
meaner things, it must mature. For this it has 
ample time. 

Berkeley says that few men think, yet all have 

The Sphinx's Riddle. 79 

opinions ; and it is now very frequently asserted 
that when more is thought, not only there will not 
be such a diversity of opinion, but at that time 
Pessimism, as the religion of the future, will 
begin its sway. 

It has been elsewhere noted that the effect of 
Kant's philosophy was not dissimilar to that of a 
successful operation on cataract, and the aim of 
the "World as Will and Idea" is to place in the 
hands of those on whom that operation has been 
satisfactorily performed a pair of such spectacles 
as are suitable to convalescent eyes. Schopen- 
hauer is therefore in a measure indebted to Kant, 
as also, it may be added, to Plato, and the sacred 
books of the Hindus. 

In saying, however, that Schopenhauer is in- 
debted to Kant, it is well to point out that Scho- 
penhauer begins precisely where Kant left off. 
Kant's great merit consisted in distinguishing the 
phenomenon from the thing-in-itself, or in other 
words, in showing the difference between that 
which seems and that which is. 1 For the inac- 
cessible thing-in-itself he had no explanation to 
offer. He called it the Ding an sic/i, regarded 
it as the result of an unintelligible cause, and 

1 This distinction of Kant's is not strictly original. Its 
germ is in Plato, and Voltaire set all Europe laughing at 
Maupertuis, who had vaguely stated that " nous vivons 
dans un monde ou rien de ce que nous apercevons ne res- 
semble a ce que nous apercevons." Whether Kant was ac- 
quainted or not with Maupertuis' theory is, of course, diffi- 
cult to say ; at any rate, he resurrected the doctrine, and 
presented idealism for the first time in a logical form. 

8o The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

then left it to be a bugbear to every student of 
his philosophy. 

This unpleasant Ding an sich was exorcised, 
and well-nigh banished for good and all, by 
Fichte and Hegel ; but Schopenhauer reestab- 
lished the incomprehensible factor on a fresh 
basis, christened it " Will," and asserted it to be 
the creator of all that is, and at once indepen- 
dent, free, and omnipotent; in other words, the 
interior essence of the world of which Christ cru- 
cified is the sublime symbol. Thus disposed of, 
the Ding an sich may now be left to take care 
of itself, and the examination of the great theory 

Schopenhauer opens his philosophy with the 
formula, " The world is my idea ; " a formula 
which, it may be noted, condenses in the fewest 
possible words all that is worth condensing of the 
idealism of Germany. Beginning in this manner 
it is evident that he proposes to show neither 
whence the world comes nor whither it tends, nor 
yet why it is, but simply, what it is. The ques- 
tion has been asked before. According to Scho- 
penhauer, the world is made up of two zones, 
the real and the ideal ; and it may here be said 
that over the real and the ideal Schopenhauer 
successfully read the banns. 

To return, however, to the opening formula. 
" The world is my idea " is a truth which holds 
good for everything that lives and thinks, but 
which, however, is appreciable only by man. 
When appreciated, it is at once clear that what 

The Sphinx s Riddle. 81 

we know is neither a sun nor an earth, for we 
have at best an eye which sees the one, and a 
hand which feels the other. In brief, we are un- 
acquainted with either forms or colors ; we have 
but senses which represent them to us, while ob- 
jects exist for us merely through the medium of 
the intelligence. Indeed, as Schopenhauer has 
said, no other truth is more certain and less in 
need of proof than this, that the whole world is 
simply the perception of a perceiver ; in a word, 

Emerson says that the frivolous make them- 
selves merry with this theory ; and it must be ad- 
mitted that at first it does not seem quite satis- 
factory to be told that the world in which we live 
is nothing more nor less than a cerebral phenom- 
enon, which man carries with him to the tomb, 
and which, in the absence of a perceiver, would 
not exist at all. To arrive, however, at a clear 
understanding of the purely phenomenal exist- 
ence of the exterior world, it will suffice to rep- 
resent to one's self the world as it was when 
entirely uninhabited. At that time it was neces- 
sarily without perception. Later, there sprang up 
a great quantity of plants, upon which the differ- 
ent forces of light, air, humidity, and electricity 
acted according to their nature. If, now, it be re- 
membered how impressionable plants are to these 
agents, and how thought leads by degrees to sen- 
sation and thence to perception, immediately then 
the world appears representing itself in time and- 
space. Or, reverse the argument and imagine 

82 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

that the dream of the poet is realized, that nations 
have disappeared, and that every living thing has 
ceased to be, while beneath the sun's unchang- 
ing stare, and enveloped in the sky's bland, per- 
vasive blue, the earth with her continents and 
archipelagoes continues to revolve in space. Un- 
der such circumstances it would naturally seem 
as though the universe subsisted still. But if the 
question is examined more closely, it will per- 
haps be admitted that these things remain as 
they are only on condition of being seen and felt. 
For supposing one spectator present, but of a 
different mental organization from our own, then 
the entire scene is changed ; suppress him, and 
the whole spectacle tumbles into chaos. 

This doctrine, as it will be readily understood, 
does not in any sense deny the reality of the 
world in the ordinary acceptation of the term ; it 
maintains merely that every object is conditioned 
by its subject ; or, to explain the theory less tech- 
nically, it will be sufficient to reflect that for the 
world, or for anything else, to be an object, there 
must be some one as subject to think it ; for in- 
stance, the dreamless sleep proves that the earth 
exists only to the thinking mind, and should all 
Nature be rocked in an eternal slumber, there 
could then be no question of an exterior world. 

If it be asked in what this perception con- 
sists, which represents the exterior world, we find 
that it is limited to three fundamental concepts, 
that of time, space, and their concomitant causal- 
ity ; but inasmuch as time and space are the re- 

The Sphinx s Riddle. 83 

ceptacle of every phenomenon, once their ideality 
is established, the ideality of the world is proven 
at the same moment, and with it the truth of the 
formula, " The world is my idea." 

Now the ideality of time is established, accord- 
ing to Schopenhauer, by what is known in me- 
chanics as the law of inertia. " For what," he 
asks in the " Parerga," " does this law teach ? 
Simply, that time alone cannot produce any phys- 
ical action, that alone and in itself it alters noth- 
ing either in the repose or movement of a body. 
Were it either accidentally or otherwise inher- 
ent in things themselves, it would follow that its 
duration or brevity would affect them in a certain 
measure. But it does nothing of the sort ; time 
passes over all things without leaving the slight- 
est trace, for they are acted upon only by the 
causes that unroll themselves in time, but in no 
sense by time itself. When, therefore, a body is 
withdrawn from chemical action, as the mam- 
moth in the ice fields, the fly in amber, and the 
Egyptian antiquities in their closed necropoli, 
thousands of years may pass and leave them un- 
affected. Indeed," he adds elsewhere, "the liv- 
ing toads found in limestone lead to the conclu- 
sion that even animal life may be suspended for 
thousands of years, provided this suspension is 
begun in the dormant period and maintained by 
special circumstances." 

The "London Times," 2ist September, 1840, 
contains a notice to the effect that, at a lecture 
delivered by Mr. Pettigrew, at the Literary and 

84 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

Scientific Institute, the lecturer showed some 
grains of wheat which Sir G. Wilkenson had 
found in a grave at Thebes, where they must 
have lain for three thousand years. They were 
found in an hermetically sealed vase. Mr. Petti- 
grew had sowed twelve grains, and obtained a 
plant which grew five feet high, and the seeds of 
which were then quite ripe. 

Many other instances are given of this abso- 
lute inactivity ; for example, let a body once be 
put in motion, that motion is never arrested or 
diminished by any lapse of time ; it would be 
never ending were it not for the reaction of phys- 
ical causes. In the same manner a body in re- 
pose would remain so eternally did not physical 
causes put it in motion. It follows, therefore, 
that time is not a real existence, but only a con- 
dition of thought, or purely ideal. 

In regard to the ideality of space, Schopen- 
hauer says, " The clearest and most simple proof 
of the ideality of space is that we can never get 
it out of our thoughts, as we might anything else. 
We can fancy space as having no longer any- 
thing to fill it, we can imagine that everything 
within it has disappeared, we can represent it as 
being, between the fixed stars, an absolute void, 
but space itself we can never get rid of ; whatever 
we do, however we turn, there it is in endless ex- 
pansion. This fact certainly proves that space 
is a part of our intellect ; or, in other words, that 
it is the woof of the tissue upon which the dif- 
ferent objects of the exterior world apply them- 

The Sphinx s Riddle. 85 

selves. As soon as I think of an object, space 
appears with it and accompanies every move- 
ment, every turn and detour of my thought, as 
faithfully as the spectacles on my nose accom- 
pany ever} 7 movement, every turn and detour of 
my person, or just in the same manner as the 
shadow accompanies the body. If I notice that 
a thing accompanies me everywhere, and under 
all circumstances, I naturally conclude that it is 
in some way connected with me ; as if, for in- 
stance, wherever I went I noticed a particular 
odor from which I could not escape. Space, is 
precisely the same ; whatever I think of, what 
ever I imagine, space comes first and yields its 
place to nothing. It must, therefore, be an in- 
tegral part of my understanding, and its ideality 
in consequence must extend to everything that is 

Space and time being but the empty frame- 
work of phenomenal existence, something must 
fill them, and that something is causality, which, 
according to Schopenhauer, is synonymous with 
action and matter. Into these abstract regions, 
however, it is unnecessary to follow him any fur- 
ther. Suffice it to say that having shown in this 
way that one of the two zones of which the world 
is formed is but an effect of the perceptions, he 
passes therefrom to the world as it is. 

Now there were many paths which might or 
might not have led him to the unravelment of 
the great secret which Kant gave up in despair, 
there were many ways which seemed to tend to 

86 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

a direct solution of the Sphinx's riddle, but the 
course which he chose, and which brought him 
nearer to the proper answer than any other sys- 
tem of which the world yet knows, may be fairly 
said to have been inspired by the spirit of truth, 
and as an inspiration given first to him of all 

It was not mathematics that he selected to aid 
him in his search for the real, for whatever the 
subtleties of that science may be, it is still too 
superficial to contain an explorable depth. The 
natural sciences could aid him as little. Anat- 
omy, botany, and zoology reveal, it is true, an in- 
finite variety of forms, but these forms at best 
are but unrelated perceptions, a series of inde- 
cipherable hieroglyphics. Even etiology, when 
embracing the whole range of physical science, 
gives at most but the nomenclature, succession, 
and changes of inexplicable forces, without re- 
vealing anything of their inner nature. All these 
methods were smitten with the same defect, 
they were all external, and offered not the essence 
of things, but only their image and description. 
To employ them, therefore, in a search for truth 
would, he said, be on a par with a man who, 
wandering about a castle looking vainly for the 
entrance, takes meanwhile a sketch of the fagade. 
Such, however, he noted, is the method which 
all other philosophers have followed. He con- 
cluded, therefore, as man was not only a think- 
ing being, to whom the world was merely an idea, 
but an individual riveted to the earth by a body 

The Sphinx's Riddle. 87 

whose affections were the starting-point of his in- 
tuitions, that reality would come to him, not from 
without, but from within. " For this body of man's 
is," he argued, " but an object among other ob- 
jects ; its movements and actions are unknown to 
the thinking being save as are the changes of the 
others, and they would be as incomprehensible 
to him as his own were not their signification 
revealed to him in another manner. He would 
see movements follow motives with the constancy 
of a natural law, and would as little understand 
the influence of the motive as the connection of 
any other effect with its cause. He could, if he 
chose, call it force, quality, or character, but that 
is all that he would know about it." 

What, then, is the interior essence of every 
manifestation and of every action ? What is that 
which is identical with the body to such an ex- 
tent that to its command a movement always an- 
swers ? What is that with which Nature plays, 
which works dumbly in the rock, slumbers in the 
plant, and awakes in man? Schopenhauer an- 
swers with a word, " Will." Will, he teaches, is 
a force, and should not be taken, as it is ordi- 
narily, to mean simply the conscious act of an in- 
telligent being. In Nature it is a blind, uncon- 
scious power ; in man it is the foundation of 

But before entering into an examination of the 
functions and vagaries of this force, of which 
everything, from a cataclysm to a blade of grass, 
is a derivative, it is well to inquire what its exact 

88 The Philosopliy of Disenchantment. 

rank is. It has been already said that in man it 
was the foundation of being, but from very early 
times, as a matter of fact, since the days in 
which Anaxagoras lived and taught, the intel- 
lect has held, among all man's other attributes, a 
sceptre hitherto uncontested. If Schopenhauer, 
however, is to be believed, the supremacy hitherto 
accorded to it has been the result of error. The 
throne, by grace divine, belongs to Will. The 
intellect is but the prime minister, the instrument 
of a higher force, as the hammer is that of the 

If the matter be examined however casually, 
it will become at once clear that what we are 
most conscious of in effort, hope, desire, fear, 
love, hatred, and determination, are the workings 
and manifestations of Will. If the animal is con- 
sidered, it will be seen that in the descending 
scale intelligence becomes more and more imper- 
fect, while Will remains entirely unaffected. The 
smallest insect wants what it wants as much as 
man. The intellect, moreover, becomes wearied, 
while Will is indefatigable. Indeed, when it is 
remembered that such men as Swift, Kant, Scott, 
Southey, Rousseau, and Emerson have fallen into 
a state of intellectual debility, it is well-nigh im- 
possible to deny that the mind is but a function 
of the body, which, in turn, is a function of the 
Will. But that which probably shows the second- 
ary and dependent nature of the intelligence more 
clearly is its peculiar characteristic of intermit- 
tence and periodicity. In deep sleep, the brain 

The Sphinx's Riddle. 89 

rests, while the other organs continue their work. 
In brief, then, Intellect is the light and Will the 
warmth. " In me," Schopenhauer says, " the in- 
destructible is not the soul, but rather, to employ 
a chemical term, the basis of the soul, which is 

Will, moreover, is not only the foundation of 
being, but, as has been noted, it is the universal 
essence. Schopenhauer points out the ascension 
of sap in plants, which is no easy problem in hy- 
draulics, and the insect's marvelous anticipations 
of the future, and asks what is it all but Will ? 
The vital force itself, he says, is Will, Will to 
live, while the organism of the body is but Will 
manifested, Will become visible. 

As Schopenhauer describes it, Will is also 
identical, immutable, and free. Its identity is 
shown in inorganic life in the irresistible tendency 
of water to precipitate itself into cavities, the 
perseverance with which the loadstone turns to the 
north, the longing that iron has to attach itself to 
it, the violence with which contrary currents of 
electricity try to unite the choice of fluids, and in 
the manner in which they join and separate. In 
organic life, it is shown by the fact that every 
vegetable has a peculiar characteristic : one wants 
a damp soil, another needs a dry one ; one grows 
only on high ground, another in the valley ; one 
turns to the light, another to the water ; while the 
climbing plant seeks a support. In the animal 
kingdom there exists another form, which is no- 
ticeable in the partly voluntary, partly involun- 

90 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

tary movements of the lowest type. When, how- 
ever, in the evolution of Will the insect or the 
animal seeks and chooses its food, then intelli- 
gence begins and volition passes from darkness 
into light. 

Will, too, is immutable. It never varies j it is 
the same in man as in the caterpillar, for, as has 
been said, what an insect wants it wants as de- 
cidedly as does a man ; the only difference is in 
the object of desire. The immutability of Will, 
moreover, is the base of its indestructibility ; it 
never perishes, and for that matter what does ? 
In the world of phenomena all things, it is true, 
seem to have a birth and a death, but that is but 
an illusion, which the philosopher does not share. 
Our true being, and the veritable essence of all 
things, dwell, Schopenhauer says, in a region 
where time is not, and where the concepts of 
birth and death are without significance. The 
fear of death, he adds parenthetically, is a purely 
independent sentiment, and one which has its 
origin in the Will to live. Briefly, it is an illusion 
which man brings with him when he is born, and 
which guides him through life ; for notice that 
were this fear of death perfectly reasonable, man 
would be as uneasy about the chaos which pre- 
ceded his existence as about that which is to fol- 
low it. 

Let the individual die, however ; the species is 
indestructible, for death is to the species as sleep 
is to the individual. The species contains the 
indestructible, the immutable Will of which the 

The Sphinx's Riddle. 91 

individual is a manifestation. It contains all that 
is, all that was, and all that will be. 

" When we think of the future and of the com- 
ing generations, the millions of human beings 
who will differ from us in habits and customs, and 
we try in imagination to fancy them with us, we 
wonder from where they will spring, where they 
are now ? Where is this fecund chaos, rich in 
worlds, that hides the generations that are to be ? 
And where can it be save there, where every re- 
ality has been and will be, here, in the present, 
and what it contains. And you, foolish ques- 
tioner, who do not recognize your own essence, 
you are like the leaf on the tree which, withering 
in autumn, and feeling it is about to fall, laments 
at death, inconsolable at the knowledge of the 
fresh verdure which in spring will cover the tree 
once more. The leaf cries, 'I am no more.' 
Foolish leaf, where do you go ? Whence do the 
fresh leaves come ? Where is this chaos whose 
gulf you fear? See, your own self is in that 
force, interior and hidden, acting on the tree 
which, through all generations of leaves, knows 
neither birth nor death. And now tell me," Scho- 
penhauer concludes, as though he were about to 
pronounce a benediction, " tell me, is man unlike 
the leaf ? " 

This doctrine, which teaches that through all 
there is one invariable, identical, and equal force, 
is the great problem whose solution was sought 
by Kant, and which he gave up in despair \ it is 
the discovery which makes of Schopenhauer one 

92 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

of the foremost thinkers of the century, and one, 
it may be added without any unguarded enthusi- 
asm, which will suffice to carry his name into 
other ages, somewhat in the same manner as the 
name of Columbus has descended to us. 

" If we were to consider," he said, " the nature 
of this force which admittedly moves the world, 
but whose psychological examination is so little 
advanced that the most certain analytical results 
seem not unlike a paradox, we should be aston- 
ished at this fundamental verity which I have 
been the first to bring to light, and to which I 
have given its true name, Will. For what is 
the world but an enormous Will constantly irrup- 
ting into life. Gravitation, electricity, heat, every 
form of activity, from the fall of an apple to the 
foundation of a republic, is but the expression of 
Will, and nothing more." 

This doctrine of volition coincides, it may be 
noted, very perfectly with that of evolution, and 
it was not difficult for Schopenhauer to show that 
the more recent results of science were a confir- 
mation of his philosophy. In the " Parerga," 
which he wrote thirty years after the publication 
of his chief work, he says that during the early 
stages of the globe's formation, before the age of 
granite, the objectivity of the Will-to-live was 
limited to the most inferior forms ; also that the 
forces were at that time engaged in a combat 
whose theatre was not alone the surface of the 
globe, but its entire mass, a combat too colossal 
for the imagination to grasp. When this Titan 

The Sphinx s Riddle. 93 

conflict of chemical forces had ended, and the 
granite, like a tombstone, covered the combat- 
ants, the Will-to-live, by a striking contrast, ir- 
rupted in the peaceful world of plant and forest. 
This vegetable world decarbonized the air, and 
prepared it for animal life. The objectivity of 
Will then realized a new form, the animal 
kingdom. Fish and crustaceans filled the sea, 
gigantic reptiles covered the earth, and gradually 
through innumerable forms, each more perfect 
than the last, the Will-to-live ascended finally to 
man. This stage attained is, in his opinion, des- 
tined to be the last, for with it is come the pos- 
sibility of the denial of the Will, through which 
the divine comedy will end. 

This possibility of the denial of the Will, and 
the ransom of the world from its attendant mis- 
ery thereby, will be explained later on, and for 
the moment it will be sufficient to note that 
Schopenhauer refused to admit that a being more 
intelligent than man could exist either here or on 
any other planet, for with enlarged intelligence 
he would consider life too deplorable to be sup- 
ported for a single moment. 

If, now, the foregoing arguments are admitted, 
and it is taken for granted that there are two sep- 
arate and distinct hemispheres, one apparent and 
one real, one the world of perceptions and one 
the world of Will, there must necessarily be 
some connection between the two, some point at 
which they meet and join. This chasm Scho- 
penhauer lightly bridges over with those ideas of 

94 The PhilosopJiy of Disenchantment. 

Plato which the Middle Ages neglected, and 
which formed the banquet and the sustenance 
of the Renaissance : in fact, the eternal yet ever 
fresh suggestions that Nature offers to the artist, 
and which the sculptor with his chisel, the poet 
with his pen, the painter with his brush, resusci- 
tate and explain anew. 

It is, however, only in the purest contemplation 
that these suggestions can be properly received, 
and it is, of course, in genius that a preeminent 
capacity for such receptivity exists. For it is as 
if when genius appears in an individual, a larger 
measure of the power of knowledge falls to his 
lot than is necessary for the service of an indi- 
vidual will, and this superfluity, being free, be- 
comes, as it were, the mirror of the inner nature 
of the world, or, as Carlyle puts it, " the spirit- 
ual picture of Nature." " This," Schopenhauer 
notes parenthetically, " explains the restless ac- 
tivity of the genius, for the present can rarely 
satisfy him, because it does not fill his thoughts. 
There is in him a ceaseless aspiration and desire 
for new and lofty things, and a longing to meet 
and communicate with others of similar status. 
The common mortal, on the other hand, filled 
with the hour, ends in it, and finding everywhere 
his like enjoys that satisfaction in daily life from 
which the genius is debarred." 

The common mortal, the bourgeois, as it is the 
fashion to call him, turned out as he is daily by 
the thousand, manufactured, it would seem, to 
order, finds in his satisfied mediocrity no glim- 

The Sphinx's Riddle. 95 

mer, even, of a spark that can predispose him to 
disinterested observation. Whatever arrests his 
attention does so only for the moment, and in 
all that appears before him he seeks merely the 
general concept under which it is to be brought, 
very much in the same manner as the indolent 
seek a chair, which then interests them no fur- 

And yet it is unnecessary to pore over German 
metaphysics to know that whoso can lose himself 
in Nature, and sink his own individuality therein, 
finds that it has suddenly become a suggestion, 
which he has absorbed, and which is now part of 
himself. It is in this sense that Byron says : 

" Are not the mountains, waves, and skies a part 
Of me and of my soul, as I of them ? " 

This theory, it is true, is not that of all great 
poets, many of whom, as witness Shelley and 
Leopardi, did not see in the splendid face of Na- 
ture that they could not be absolutely perishable, 
and so selfishly mourned over their own weak- 
ness and her impassibility. 

According to Schopenhauer, art should be 
strictly impersonal, and contemplation as calm 
as a foretaste of Nirvana, in which the individual 
is effaced and only the pure knowing subject 
subsists. This condition he praises with great 
wealth of adjective as the painless state which 
Epicurus, of refined memory, celebrated as the 
highest good, the bliss of the gods, for therein 
" man is freed from the hateful yoke of Will, the 

96 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

penal servitude of daily life ceases as for a Sab- 
bath, the wheel of Ixion stands still." The cause 
of all this he is at no loss to explain, and he does 
so, it may be added, in a manner poetically logi- 
cal and peculiar to himself. " Every desire is 
born of a need, of a privation, or a suffering. 
When satisfied it is lulled, but for one that is 
satisfied how many are un appeased ! Desire, 
moreover, is of long duration, its exigencies are 
infinite, while pleasure is brief and narrowly 
measured. Even this pleasure is only an appari- 
tion, another succeeds it ; the first is a vanished 
illusion, the second an illusion which lingers still. 
Nothing is capable of appeasing Will, nor of per- 
manently arresting it ; the best we can do for our- 
selves is like the alms tossed to a beggar, which 
in preserving his life to-day prolongs his misery 
to-morrow. While, therefore, we are dominated 
by desires and ruled by Will, so long as we give 
ourselves up to hopes that delude and fears that 
persecute, we have neither repose nor happiness. 
But when an accident, an interior harmony, lift- 
ing us for the time from out the infinite torrent 
of desire, delivers the spirit from the oppression 
of the Will, turns our attention from everything 
that solicits it, and all things seem as freed from 
the allurements of hope and personal interest, 
then repose, vainly pursued, yet ever intangible, 
comes to us of itself, bearing with open hands 
the plenitude of the gift of peace." 

The fine arts, therefore, as well as philosophy, 
are at work on the problem of existence. Every 

The Sphinx s Riddle. 97 

mind that has once rested in impersonal contem- 
plation of the world tends from that moment to 
some comprehension of the mystery of beauty 
and the internal essence of all things ; and it is 
for this reason that every new work which grap- 
ples forcibly with any actuality is one more an- 
swer to the question, What is life ? 

To this query every masterpiece replies, perti- 
nently, but in its own manner. Art, which speaks 
in the ingenuous tongue of intuition, and not in 
the abstract speech of thought, answers the ques- 
tion with a passing image, but not with a definite 
reply. But every great work, be it a poem, a 
picture, a statue, or a play, answers still. Even 
music replies, and more profoundly than anything 
else. Indeed, art offers to him who questions an 
image born of intuition, which says, See, this is 

Briefly, then, contemplation brings with it that 
affranchisement of the intelligence, which is not 
alone a release from the trammels of the Will, but 
which is the law of art itself, and raises man out 
of misery into the pure world of ideas. 

In the treatment of this subject, which in the 
hands of other writers has been productive of 
inexpressible weariness, Schopenhauer has given 
himself no airs. In what has gone before there 
has been, it must be admitted, no attempt to nar- 
rate history, and then pass it off as an explana- 
tion of the Universe. He has gone to the root 
of the matter, seized a fact and brought it to 
light, without any nauseous accompaniment of 

98 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

" Absolutes " or " Supersensibles." In view of 
the magnitude of the subject, it has been handled, 
I think, very simply, and that perhaps for the 
reason that simplicity is the cachet which great- 
ness lends to all its productions. If in these 
pages it has seemed otherwise, the fault is not 
that of the master, but rather that of the clerk. 

The question as to what the world is has been 
considered, and the answer conveyed that Will, 
the essence of all things, is a blind, unconscious 
force which, after irrupting in inorganic life and 
passing therefrom through the vegetable and ani- 
mal kingdom, reaches its culmination in man, 
and that the only relief from its oppressive yoke 
is found in art and impersonal contemplation. 
Taking these premises for granted, and admitting 
for a moment their corollary that life is a rest- 
less pain, it will be found that the sombre conclu- 
sion which follows therefrom has been deduced 
with an exactitude which is comparable only to 
the precision of a prism decomposing light. 

Literature is admittedly full of the embarrass- 
ments of transition, and philosophy has naturally 
its attendant share. It is, of course, not difficult 
for the metaphysician to say, This part of my 
work is theoretical, and this, practical ; but to 
give to the two that cohesion which is neces- 
sary in the unfolding of a single, if voluminous, 
thought is a feat not always performed with suc- 
cess. It is, therefore, no little to Schopenhauer's 
credit that he triumphantly connected the two in 
such wise that they seem as though fused in one, 

The Sphinx's Riddle. 99 

and after disposing of the world at large was able 
to turn to life and its attendant, pain. 

Now in all grades of its manifestation, Will, he 
teaches, dispenses entirely with any end or aim ; 
it simply and ceaselessly strives, for striving is its 
sole nature. As, however, any hindrance of this 
striving, through an obstacle placed between it 
and its temporary aim, is called suffering, and on 
the other hand the attainment of its end, satis- 
faction, well-being, or happiness, it follows, if the 
obstacles it meets outnumber the facilities it en- 
counters, that having no final end or aim, there 
can be no end and no measure of suffering. 

But does pain outbalance happiness ? The 
question is certainly complex, and for that matter 
unanswerable save by a cumbersome mathemat- 
ical process from which the reader may well be 
spared. The optimist points to the pleasures of 
life, the pessimist enumerates its trials. Each 
judges according to his lights. Schopenhauer's 
opinion goes without the telling, and as he gave 
his whole life to the subject his verdict may, for 
the moment, be allowed to pass unchallenged. 
Still, if the question is examined, no matter how 
casually, it will be seen, first, that there is no 
sensibility in the plant and therefore no suffer- 
ing ; second, that a certain small degree is mani- 
fested in the lowest types of animal life ; third, 
that the capacity to feel and suffer is still limited, 
even in the case of the most intelligent insects ; 
fourth, that pain of an acute degree first appears 
with the nervous system of the vertebrates ; fifth, 

IOO The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

that it continues to increase in direct propor- 
tion to the development of the intelligence ; and, 
finally, that as intelligence attains distinctness, 
pain advances with it, and what Mr. Swinburne 
calls the gift of tears finds its supreme expression 
in man. Truly, as Schopenhauer has expressed 
it, man is not a being to be greatly envied. He 
is the concretion of a thousand necessities. His 
life, as a rule, is a struggle for existence with the 
certainty of defeat in the end, and when his ex- 
istence is assured, there comes a fight with the 
burden of life, an effort to kill time, and a vain 
attempt to escape ennui. 

Nor is ennui a minor evil. It is not every one 
who can get away from himself. Schopenhauer 
could, it is true, but in so doing he noted that its 
ravages depicted on the human countenance an 
expression of absolute despair, and made beings 
who love one another as little as men do seek 
each other eagerly. " It drives men," he said, 
" to the greatest excesses, as does famine, its 
opposite extreme. Public precautions are taken 
against it as against other calamities, hence the 
historical pattern et circenses. Want," he added, 
" is the scourge of the people as ennui is that of 
fashionable life. In the middle classes ennui 
is represented by the Sabbath, and want by the 
other days of the week." 

In this way, between desire and attainment, 
human life rolls on. The wish is, in its nature, 
pain, and satisfaction soon begets satiety. No 
matter what nature and fortune may have done 

The Sphinx's Riddle. 101 

no matter who a man may be, nor what he may 
possess, the pain which is essential to life can 
never be dodged. Efforts to banish suffering ef- 
fect, if successful, only a change in its form. In 
itself it is want or care for the maintenance of 
life ; and if in this form it is at last and with diffi- 
culty removed, back it comes again in the shape 
of love, jealous}', lust, envy, hatred, or ambition ; 
and if it can gain entrance through none of these 
avatars, it comes as simple boredom, against 
which we strive as best we may. Even in this 
latter case, if at last we get the upper hand, we 
shall hardly do so, Schopenhauer says, " with- 
out letting pain in again in one of its earlier 
forms ; and then the dance begins afresh, for life, 
like a pendulum, swings ever backward and for- 
ward between pain and ennui." 

Depressing as this view of life may be, Scho- 
penhauer draws attention to an aspect of it from 
which a certain consolation may be derived, and 
even a philosophic indifference to present ills 
be attained. Our impatience at misfortune, he 
notes, arises very generally from the fact that we 
regard it as having been caused by a chain of 
circumstances which might easily have been dif- 
ferent. As a rule, we make little, if any, com- 
plaint over the ills that are necessary and univer- 
sal ; such, for instance, as the advance of age, 
and the death which must claim us all ; on the 
contrary, it is the accidental nature of the sorrow 
that gives its sting. But if we were to recognize 
that pain is inevitable and essential to life, and 

IO2 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

that nothing depends on chance save only the 
form in which it presents itself, and that conse- 
quently the present suffering fills a place which 
without it would be occupied by another which it 
has excluded, then, from convictions of this na- 
ture, a considerable amount of stoical equanimity 
would be produced, and the amount of anxious 
care which now pervades the world would be no- 
tably diminished. But fortifications of this de- 
scription, however cunningly devised, form no 
bulwark against pain itself ; for pain, according 
to Schopenhauer, is positive, the one thing that 
is felt j while on the other hand, satisfaction, or, 
as it is termed, happiness, is a purely negative 
condition. Against this theory it is unnecessary 
to bring to bear any great battery of argument ; 
many thinkers have disagreed with him on this 
point, as they have also disagreed with his asser- 
tion that pleasure is always preceded by a want. 
It is true, of course, that unexpected pleasures 
have a delight whose value is entirely indepen- 
dent of antecedent desire. But unexpected pleas- 
ures are rare ; they do not come to us every day, 
and when they do they cease to be pleasures ; in- 
deed, their rarity may in this respect be looked 
upon as the exception which confirms the rule. 
Ample proof, however, of the negativity of hap- 
piness is found in art, and especially in poetry. 
Epic and dramatic verse represent struggles, ef- 
forts, and combats for happiness ; but happiness 
itself, complete and enduring, is never depicted. 
Up to the last scene the hero copes with dangers 

The Sphinx s Riddle. 103 

and battleaxes difficulties, whereupon the curtain 
falls upon his happiness, which, being completely 
negative, cannot be the subject of art. The 
idyl, it is true, professes to treat of happiness, 
but in so doing it blunders sadly, for the poet 
either finds his verse turning beneath his hands 
into an insignificant epic made up of feeble sor- 
rows, trivial pleasures, and trifling efforts, or else 
it becomes merely a description of the charm and 
beauty of Nature. The same thing, Schopenhauer 
says, is noticeable in music. Melody is a devia- 
tion from the keynote, to which, after many mu- 
tations, it at last returns ; but the keynote, which 
expresses " the satisfaction of the will " is, when 
prolonged, perfectly monotonous, and wearisome 
in the extreme. 

From the logic of these arguments it is clear 
that Voltaire was not very far wrong when he 
said : " Happiness is but a dream, and only pain 
is real. I have thought so for eighty-four years, 
and I know of no better plan than to resign my- 
self to the inevitable, and reflect that flies were 
born to be devoured by spiders, and man to be 
consumed by care." 

To this conclusion the optimist will naturally 
object, but he does so in the face of history and 
experience, either of which is quite competent to 
prove that this world is far from being the best 
one possible. If neither of them succeeds in so 
doing, then let him wander through the hospitals, 
the cholera slums, the operating-rooms of the 
surgeon, the prisons, the torture-chambers, the 

IO4 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

slave-kennels, the battlefields, or any one of the 
numberless haunts of nameless misery ; or, if all 
of these are too far, or too inconvenient, let him 
take a turn into one of the many factories where 
men and women, and even infants, work from ten 
to fourteen hours a day at mechanical labor, sim- 
ply that they may continue to enjoy the exquisite 
delight of living. 

Moreover, as Schopenhauer asks with grim 
irony, " Where did Dante find the materials for 
his ' Inferno ' if not from this world ; and yet is 
not his picture exhaustively satisfactory? To 
some minds it is even a trifle overcharged ; but 
look at his Paradise ; when he attempted to de- 
pict it he had nothing to guide him, this pleasant 
world could not offer a single suggestion ; and 
so, being obliged to say something, and yet not 
knowing what to say, he palms off in place of a 
celestial panorama the instruction and advice 
which he imagines himself as receiving from Bea- 
trice and the Saints." 

Briefly, then, life, to the pessimist, is a motive- 
less desire, a constant pain and continued strug- 
gle, followed by death, and so on, in secula seculo- 
rum, until the planet's crust crumbles to dust. 

Since, therefore, life is so deplorable, the de- 
duction seems to follow that it is better to take 
the poet's advice : 

" Count o'er the joys thine hours have seen, 

Count o'er thy days from anguish free, 
And know, whatever thou hast been, 
'T is something better not to be." 

The Sphinx s Riddle. 105 

But here the question naturally arises, how is this 
annihilation to be accomplished ? Through a 
vulgar and commonplace suicide ? Not at all. 
Schopenhauer is far too logical to suggest a pal- 
liative so fruitless and clap-trap as that. For sui- 
cide, far from being a denial of the will to live, is 
one of its strongest affirmations. Paradoxical as 
it may seem, the man who takes his own life 
really wants to live ; what he does not want are 
the misery and trials attendant on his particular 
existence. He abolishes the individual, but not 
the race. The species continues, and pain with it. 

In what manner, then, can we decently rid our- 
selves, and all who would otherwise follow, of the 
pangs and torments of life ? Schopenhauer will 
give the receipt in a moment ; but to understand 
the method clearly, it is necessary to take a 
glance at the metaphysics of love. 

We are told by Dr. Frauenstadt that Schopen- 
hauer considered this portion of his philosophy 
to be "a pearl." A pearl it may be, but as such 
it is not entirely suited to an Anglo-Saxon set- 
ting ; nevertheless, as it is important to gain 
some idea of what this clear-eyed recluse thought 
of the delicate lever which disturbs the gravest 
interests, and whose meshes entwine peer and 
peasant alike, a brief description of it will not 
be entirely out of place. 

By way of preface it may be said that, save 
Plato, no other philosopher has cared to consider 
a subject so simple yet complex as this, and of 
common accord it has been relinquished to the 

io6 The Philosophy of Disenchantment, 

abuse of the poets and the praise of the rhyme- 
sters. It may be, perhaps, that from its nature it 
revolted at logic, and that the seekers for truth, 
in trying to clutch it, resembled the horseman in 
the familiar picture who, over ditches and dykes, 
pursues a phantom which floats always before 
him, and yet is ever intangible. La Rochefou- 
cauld, who was ready enough with phrases, ad- 
mitted that it was indefinable ; a compatriot of 
his tried to compass it with the epigram, " C'est 
1'egolsme a deux." Balzac gave it an escutcheon. 
Every one has had more or less to say about it ; 
and as some have said more than they thought, 
while others thought more than they said, it has 
been beribboned with enough comparisons to 
form an unportable volume, while its history, 
from Tatterdemalia to Marlborough House, is 
written in blood as well as in books. 

Love, however, is the basis of religion, the 
mainstay of ethics, as well as the inspiration of 
lyric and epic verse. It is, moreover, the princi- 
pal subject of every dramatic, comic, and classic 
work in India, Europe, and America, and the in- 
exhaustible spring from whose waters the fecund 
lands of fiction produce fresh crops more regu- 
larly than the seasons. It is a subject never 
lacking in actuality, and yet one to which each 
century has given a different color. It is recog- 
nized as a disease, and recommended as a rem- 
edy. And yet what is it ? There are poets who 
have said it was an illusion ; but however it may 
appear to them, it is no illusion to the philoso- 

The Sphinx's Riddle. 107 

pher : far from it ; its reality and importance in- 
crease in the ratio of its ardor, and whether it 
turns to the tragic or the comic, a love affair is to 
him, above all other early aims, the one which 
presents the gravest aspects, and the one most 
worthy of consideration ; for all the passions and 
intrigues of to-day, reduced to their simplest ex- 
pression and divested of all accompanying al- 
lurements, are nothing more nor less than the 
combination of the future generation. 

" It is through this frivolity," Schopenhauer 
says, " that the dramatis persona are to appear 
on the stage when we have made our exit. The 
existence of these future actors is absolutely con- 
ditioned on the general instinct of love, while 
their nature and characteristics depend on indi- 
vidual choice. Such is the whole problem. Love 
is the supreme will to live, the genius of the spe- 
cies, and nature, being highly strategic, covers it- 
self, for the fulfillment of its aims, with a mask of 
objective admiration, and deludes the individual 
so cleverly therewith, that he takes that to be his 
own happiness which, in reality, is but the mainte- 
nance of the species." 

The love affairs of to-day, therefore, instead of 
representing questions of personal joy or sorrow, 
are simply and solely a series of grave medita- 
tions on the existence and composition of the fu- 
ture generation. It is this grand preoccupation 
that causes the pathos and sublimity of love. It 
is this that makes it so difficult to lend any inter- 
est to a drama with which the question is not in- 

io8 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

termingled. It is this that makes love an every- 
day matter, and yet an inexhaustible topic. It is 
this that explains the gravity of the role it plays, 
the importance which it gives to the most trivial 
incidents, and above all, it is this that creates its 
measureless ardor. To quote Madame Acker- 
mann : 

" Ces delires sacres, ces desirs sans mesure, 
Dechaines dans vos flancs comme d'ardents essaims, 
Ces transports, c'est deja 1'humanite future 
Qui s'agite en vos seins." 

However disinterested and ideal an affection 
may seem, however noble and elevated an attach- 
ment may be, it is, from Schopenhauer's stand- 
point, simply Will projecting itself into the crea- 
tion of another being ; and the moment in which 
this new being rises from chaos into the punctum 
saliens of its existence is precisely that moment 
in which two young people begin to fancy each 
other. It is in the innocent union and first em- 
brace of the eyes that the microbe originates, 
though, of course, like other germs, it is fragile 
and prompt to disappear. In fact, there are few 
phenomena more striking than the profoundly 
serious, yet unconscious, manner in which two 
young people, meeting for the first time, observe 
one another. This common examination, this 
mutual study, is, as has been stated, the medi- 
tation of the genius of the species, and its result 
determines the degree of their reciprocal inclina- 

In comedy and romance the sympathies of the 

The Sphinx's Riddle. 109 

spectator are invariably excited at the spectacle 
of these two young people, and especially so when 
they are discovered defending their affection, or, 
to speak more exactly, the projects of the genius 
of the species, against the hostility of their par- 
ents, who are solely occupied with their individ- 
ual interests. It is unquestionably for this rea- 
son that the interest in plays and novels centres 
on the entrance of this serene spirit, who, with 
his lawless aims and aspirations, threatens the 
peace of the other actors, and usually digs deep 
graves for their happiness. As a rule, he suc- 
ceeds, and the climax, comformably with poetic 
justice, satisfies the spectator, who then goes 
away, leaving the lovers to their victory, and as- 
sociating himself in the idea that at last they are 
happy, whereas, according to Schopenhauer, they 
have, in spite of the opposition of their parents, 
simply given themselves up as a sacrifice to the 
good of the species. 

In tragedies in which love is the mainspring, 
the lovers usually die, because, as follows from 
the foregoing logic, they have been unable to tri- 
umph over those designs of which they were but 
the instruments. 

As Schopenhauer adds, however, a lover may 
become comic as well as tragic, and this for the 
reason that in either case he is in the hands of 
a higher power, which dominates him to such an 
extent that he is, so to speak, carried out of him- 
self, and his actions in consequence become dis- 
proportioned to his character. " Hence it is that 

no The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

the higher forms of love bring with them such 
poetic coloring, such transcendental and super- 
natural elevation, that they seem to veil their 
true end and aim from him completely. For the 
moment, he is animated by the genius of the 
species. He has received a mission to found an 
indefinite series of descendants, and, moreover, 
to endow them with a certain constitution, and 
form them of certain elements which are only ob- 
tainable from him and a particular woman. The 
feeling which he then has of acting in an affair 
of great importance transports the lover to such 
superterrestial heights, and garbs his material na- 
ture with such an appearance of immateriality 
that, however prosaic he may generally be, his 
love at once assumes a poetic aspect, a result 
which is often incompatible with his dignity." 

In brief, the instinct which guides an insect to 
a certain flower or fruit, and which causes it to 
disregard any inconvenience or danger in the at- 
tainment of its end, is precisely analogous to that 
sentiment which every poet has tried to express, 
without ever exhausting the topic. Indeed, the 
yearning of love which brings with it the idea 
that union with a certain woman will be an in- 
finite happiness, and that the inability to obtain 
her will be productive of insufferable anguish, 
cannot, according to Schopenhauer, be considered 
to have its origin in the needs of the ephemeral 
individual ; it is in fact but the sigh of the genius 
of the species, who sees herein a unique oppor- 
tunity of realizing his aims, and who in conse- 
quence is violently agitated. 

The Sphinx's Riddle. in 

Inasmuch as love rests on an illusion of per- 
sonal happiness, which the supervising spirit is 
at little pains to evoke, so soon as the tribute is 
paid the illusion vanishes, and the individual, left 
to his own resources, is mystified at finding that 
so many sublime and heroic efforts have resulted 
simply in a vulgar satisfaction, and that, taking 
all things into consideration, he is no better off 
than he was before. As a rule, Theseus once 
consoled, Ariadne is forsaken, and had Petrarch's 
passion been requited his song would then have 
ceased, as that of the bird does when once its 
eggs are in the nest. 

Every love-match, then, is contracted in the in- 
terest of the future generation, and not for the 
profit of the individual. The parties imagine, it 
is true, that it is for their own happiness ; but, as 
Schopenhauer has carefully explained, owing to 
the instinctive illusion which is the essence of 
love they soon discover that they are not united 
to each other in any respect, and this fact be- 
comes at once evident when the illusion which 
first joined them has at last disappeared. Hence 
it happens, Schopenhauer adds, that love-matches 
are usually unhappy, for they but assure the pres- 
ence of the next generation at the expense of 
even-thing else, or, as the proverb runs, " Quien 
se casa por amores ha de viver con dolores." 

" If now," he concludes, " we turn our atten- 
tion to the tumult of life, we find that all men 
are occupied with its torments, we see them unit- 
ing their efforts in a struggle with want and mass- 

112 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

ing their strength against misery, and yet there, 
in the thick of the fight, are two lovers whose 
eyes meet, charged with desire ! But why do they 
seem so timid, why are their actions so mysteri- 
ous ? It is because they are traitors who would 
perpetuate the pain which, without them, would 
soon come to that end which they would prevent, 
as others have done before them." 

There can be but one objection to this novel 
theory, which, at least, has the merit of being 
thoroughly logical, as well as that of connecting 
a subject so intangible as love to the fundamental 
principle of the whole doctrine, and that is that 
it leaves those higher and purer realms of affec- 
tion, of which most of us are conscious, almost 
entirely unvisited. This objection, hov/ever, loses 
much of its force when it is remembered that 
Schopenhauer gave to this division of his sub- 
ject the title of " Metaphysics of Love," and in 
so doing sought solely to place the matter on a 
scientific basis. In this he has undoubtedly suc- 
ceeded, and his explanation, if characteristic, is 
not for that reason necessarily unsound. In an- 
other essay, 1 which is narrowly connected with 
the one in hand, he takes the reader from the 
highest spheres of pure love to the foundation of 
ethics, and shows that both are derived from an 
identical sentiment, which he calls compassion. 

And since grief is king, what better primate 
can he have than sympathy? To the thinker 

1 " Das Fundament der Moral," contained in Die beiden 
Grundprobleme der Ethik. Leipsic : Brockhaus. 

The Sphinx's Riddle. 113 

who sees joy submerged by pain, and death rule 
uncontested, what higher sentiment can come 
than that of pity ? Schopenhauer has, however, 
been very frequently blamed for giving this as the 
foundation of morality ; to many it has seemed 
too narrow and incomplete, and an academy (that 
of Copenhagen) refused to crown his essay, for 
that very reason. But whatever objections may 
be brought against it, its originality at least is 
unattackable. In ancient philosophy, ethics was 
a treatise of happiness ; in modern works, it is 
generally a doctrine of eternal salvation ; to Scho- 
penhauer, it is neither ; for if happiness is unob- 
tainable, the subject is necessarily untreatable 
from such a standpoint, and on the other hand, 
if morality is practiced in the hope of future re- 
ward, or from fear of future punishment, it can 
hardly be said to spring from any great purity of 
intention. With such incentives it is but a doc- 
trine of expediency, and at best merely adapted 
to guide the more or less interested motives of 
human action ; but as the detection of an inter- 
ested motive behind an action admittedly suffices 
to destroy its moral value, it follows that the cri- 
terion of an act of moral value must be the ab- 
sence of any egotistic or interested motive. 

Schopenhauer points out that acts of this de- 
scription are discernible in the unostentatious 
works of charity, from which no possible reward 
can accrue, and in which no personal interest is 
at work. " So soon," he says, " as sympathy is 
awakened the dividing line which separates one 

1 14 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

being from another is effaced. The welfare and 
misfortunes of another are to the sympathizer as 
his own, his distress speaks to him and the suf- 
fering is shared in common." Meanwhile this 
phenomenon, which he sees to be of almost daily 
occurrence, is yet one which reason cannot ex- 
plain. All, even the most hard-hearted, have ex- 
perienced it, and they have done so very often 
intuitively and to their own great surprise. Men, 
for instance, risk their lives spontaneously, with- 
out possible hope of gain or applause, for a total 
stranger. England, some years ago, paid twenty 
millions sterling to free the slaves in her colo- 
nies, and the motive of that grandiose action can 
certainly not be attributed to religion, for the New 
Testament does not contain a word against slav- 
ery, though in the days to which it refers slavery 
was universal. 

It is pity, then, according to Schopenhauer, 
which is the base of every action that has a true 
moral value. " Indeed," he says, " the soundest, 
the surest guarantee of morality is the compas- 
sionate sympathy that unites us with everything 
that lives. Before it the casuist is dumb. Whoso 
possesses it is incapable of causing the slightest 
harm or injury to any one ; rather to all will he 
be magnanimous, he will forgive, he will assist, 
and each of his actions will be distinguished by 
its justice and its charity." In brief, compassion 
" is the spontaneous product of nature, which, 
while independent of religion and culture, is yet 
so pervasive that everywhere it is confidently 

The Sphinx's Riddle. 115 

evoked, and nowhere counted among the un- 
known gods. It is compassion that makes the 
mother love best her feeblest child. Truly the 
man who possesses no compassion is outside of 

The idea that runs through the whole subject, 
and which is here noted because its development 
leads to the logical climax of the entire philoso- 
phy, is that all love is sympathy, or, rather, all 
pure love is sympathy, and all love which is not 
sympathy is selfishness. Of course combinations 
of the two are frequently met ; genuine friend- 
ship, for instance, is a mixture of both, the self- 
ishness consisting in the pleasure experienced in 
the presence of the friend, and the sympathy in 
the participation in his joys and sorrows. With 
this theory as a starting-point, Schopenhauer re- 
duces every human action to one, or sometimes 
to two, or at most three motives : the first is self- 
ishness, which seeks its own welfare ; the second 
is the perversity or viciousness which attacks the 
welfare of others ; and the third is compassion, 
which seeks their good. The egotist has but one 
sincere desire, and that is the greatest possible 
amount of personal well-being. To preserve his 
existence, to free it from pain and privation, and 
even to possess every delight that he is capable 
of imagining, such is his end and aim. Every 
obstacle between his selfishness and his desires 
is an enemy to be suppressed. So far as pos- 
sible he would like to possess everything, enjoy 
everything, dominate everything. His motto is, 

Il6 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

" All for me, nothing for you." When, therefore, 
the power of the state is eluded, or becomes mo- 
mentarily paralyzed, all at once the riot of sel- 
fishness and perversity begins. One has but to 
read the "Causes Celebres," or the history of 
anarchies, to see what selfishness and perversity 
are capable of accomplishing when once their 
leash is loosed. 

At the bottom of the social ladder is he whose 
desire for life is so violent that he cares nothing 
for the rights of others, and for a small personal 
advantage oppresses, robs, or kills. Above him 
is the man who never violates the rights of 
others, unless he has a tempting opportunity, 
and can do so with every reasonable assurance of 
safety, the respectable citizen who pays his 
taxes and pew-rent, and once in a while serves on 
the jury. On a higher level is he who, possessing 
a considerable income, uses but little of it for 
himself and gives the rest to the poor, the man 
who makes less distinction than is usually made 
between himself and others. Such an one is as 
little likely to let others starve while he himself 
has enough and to spare, as another would be to 
hunger one day that he might eat more the next. 
To a man of this description the veil of Mayi, 
which may be taken to mean the veil of illu- 
sions, has become transparent. He recognizes 
himself in every being, and consequently in the 

Let this veil of Maya be lifted from the eyes 
of a man to such an extent that he makes no dis- 

The Sphinx s Riddle. 117 

tinction at all between himself and others, and 
is not only highly benevolent, but ready at all 
times to sacrifice himself for the common good ; 
then he has in him the holiness of the saint and 
the germ that may flower into renunciation. The 
phenomenon, Schopenhauer says, by which this 
change is marked is the transition from virtue to 
asceticism. In other words, it then no longer 
suffices for him to love others as himself ; there 
arises within him a horror of the kernel and es- 
sence of the world, which recognizably is full of 
misery, and of which his own existence is an ex- 
pression, and thereupon denying the nature that 
is in him, and ceasing to will anything, he gives 
himself up to complete indifferentism to all things. 

Such, in outline, is Schopenhauer's theory of 
ethics, which, starting from the principle of kind- 
ness of heart, leads to the renunciation of all 
things, and, curious as the denouement may ap- 
pear, at last to universal deliverance. 

In earlier pages the world has been explained 
to be utterly unsatisfactory, and it has been 
hinted that the suicide, were he delivered of his 
suffering, would gladly rehabilitate himself with 
life ; for it is the form of life that the suicide re- 
pudiates, not life itself. But life, to be scientifi- 
cally annihilated, should be abolished, not only in 
its suffering, but in its empty pleasures and hap- 
piness as well ; its entire inanity should be recog- 
nized, and the whole root cut once and for all. 
In explaining in what manner this is to be accom- 
plished, Schopenhauer carries his reader bon gre, 

1 1 8 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

mal grk, far off into the shadows of the Orient. 
On the one side is the lethargy of India, on the 
other China drugged with opium, while above all 
rises the fantasy of the East, the dogma of me- 

As has been seen, Schopenhauer holds that 
there is in every life an indestructible principle. 
This belief he shares with the Buddhist, the 
Brahmin, the ancient Druid, and the early Scan- 
dinavian ; historically speaking, the doctrine is 
so old that a wise Anglican is reported to have 
judged it fatherless, motherless, and without gen- 
ealogy. Properly speaking, however, this creed 
does not now insist that there is a transmigra- 
tion of the soul, but rather, in accordance with 
recent esoteric teaching, it implies simply that 
the fruit of good and evil actions revives with 
the individual through a succession of lives, until 
the evil is outbalanced, the good is paramount, 
and deliverance is at last attained. In other 
words, the beautiful myth of the early faith is 
superseded by an absurd and awkward palingen- 

Schopenhauer gives the name of Will to that 
force which, in Indian philosophy, is considered 
to resurrect with man across successive lives, 
and with which the horror of ulterior existences 
reappears. It is from this nightmare that we are 
summoned to awake, but in the summons we are 
told that the awakening can only come with a 
recognition of the true nature of the dream. 
The work to be accomplished, therefore, is less 

The Sphinx s Riddle. 119 

physical than moral. We are not to strangle 
ourselves in sleep, but to rise out of it in medita- 

"In man," says Schopenhauer, "the Will-to- 
live advances to consciousness, and consequently 
to that point where it can readily choose between 
its continuance or abolitioa. Man is the saviour, 
and all nature awaits its redemption through him. 
He is at once the priest and the victim." 

If, therefore, in the succeeding generations the 
appetite for death has been so highly cultivated, 
and compassion is so generally practiced, that a 
widespread and united pity is felt for all things, 
then through asceticism, which the reader may con- 
strue universal and absolute chastity, that state 
of indifference will be produced in which subject 
and object disappear, and the sigh of the egoist 
Will once choked thereby into a death-rattle 
the world will be delivered from pain. 

" It is this," Schopenhauer exclaims in his 
concluding paragraph, "that the Hindus have 
expressed in the empty terms of Nirvana, and 
reabsorption in Brahma. We readily recognize 
that what remains after the entire abolition of 
the Will is without effect on those in whom it 
still works; but to those in whom it has been 
crushed, what is this world of ours with its suns 
and stellar systems ? Nothing." 

In the preface to the second edition of the 
" Welt als Wille und Vorstellung," Schopenhauer 
recommends that the work be read by the light 
of his supplementary essays. This task, beyond 

I2O The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

demanding an agility of pencil and some concen- 
tration, is otherwise one of the most morbidly 
agreeable that can be suggested. The sensation 
that comes with a first reading is that of an ab- 
rupt translation to the wonders of a world which 
heretofore may have been dimly perceived, but 
which then for the first time is visited and thor- 
oughly explored. The perspective, it is true, 
holds no Edens ; in the distance there are no 
Utopias ; but when the journey is ended and the 
book laid aside, the peaks and abysses to which 
the reader has been conducted stand steadfast in 
memory, and the whole panorama of deception 
and pain groups itself in a retrospect as sudden 
and clear as that which attends the last moments 
of the drowning man. 

And Schopenhauer is the least pedantic, and 
yet the most luminous of ciceroni : in pages which 
Hugo would not disavow, and of which the fore- 
going analysis can give at best but a bald and 
unsatisfactory idea, he explains each height and 
ruin with an untiring verve, and with an irony as 
keen and fundamental as Swift's. But beyond his 
charm as a stylist, and his exhaustive knowledge 
of life, he claims attention through his theory 
of the universal force, his originality in the treat- 
ment of ethics, and the profound ingenuity with 
which he attaches everything, from a globule to 
an adagio in B flat, to his general system. 

It is said that philosophy begins precisely 
where science ends j the doctrine, therefore, 
which has just been considered is, in a measure, 

The Sphinx's Riddle. 121 

impregnable to criticism. Reduced to its simplest 
expression, it amounts briefly to this : an un- 
known principle anx, which no term can trans- 
late, but of which Will, taken in the widest sense of 
Force, is the rendition the least inexact explains 
the universe. The highest manifestation of Will 
is man ; any obstacle it encounters is pain. Pain 
is the attendant of life. Man, however, duped 
by the instinct of love, has nothing better to do 
than to prolong through his children the sorrow- 
ful continuation of unhappy generations. The 
hope of a future existence in a better world 
seems to be a consolation, but as a hope it rests 
on faith. Since life is not a benefit, chaos is pref- 
erable. Beyond suicide, which is not a philo- 
sophic solution, there are but two remedies for 
the misery of life ; one, a palliative, is found in 
art and disinterested contemplation ; the other, a 
specific, in asceticism or absolute chastity. Were 
chastity universal, it would drain the source of 
humanity, and pain would disappear; for if man 
is the highest manifestation of Will, it is permis- 
sible to assume that, were he to die out, the 
weaker reflections would pass away as the twi- 
light vanishes with the full light. 

All great religions have praised asceticism, 
and in consequence it was not difficult for Scho- 
penhauer to cite, in support of his theory, a num- 
ber of texts from the gnostics, the early fathers 
of the church, the thinkers, such as Angelius, 
Silesius, and Meister Eckhard, the mystics, and 
the quietists, together with pertinent extracts 

122 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

from the Bible and the sacred books of the 
Orient. But none of these authorities seem to 
have grasped the principle which, according to 
Schopenhauer, lies at the root of asceticism and 
constitutes its chief value. At best, they have 
seen in it but the merit of obedience to a fantastic 
law, the endurance of a gratuitous privation, or 
else they have blessed in celibacy the exaltation 
of personal purity and the renunciation of worldly 
pleasures. From the philosophic standpoint, how- 
ever, the value of asceticism consists in the fact 
that it leads to deliverance, prepares the world 
for the annihilation of pain, and indicates the 
path to be pursued. Through his labors and 
sympathy the apostle of charity succeeds in sav- 
ing from death a few families which, in conse- 
quence of his kindness, are condemned to a long 
misery. The ascetic, on the other hand, does far 
better ; he preserves whole generations from life, 
and in two or three instances very nearly suc- 
ceeded in saving the world. " The women," 
Schopenhauer says somewhere, " refused to join 
in the enterprise, and that is wh'y I hate them." 

If asceticism were practiced by all men, it 
follows that pain, so far as man is concerned, 
would cease in it. But is it permissible to as- 
sume that with the disappearance of man the 
world will vanish with him in other words, if 
humanity dies out, that animality must necessa- 
rily follow after ? 

It is here, if anywhere, that Schopenhauer has 
blundered ; the world is deplorably bad, let the 

The Sphinx?* Riddle. 123 

optimist and thoughtless say what they will, and 
it would undoubtedly be very advantageous to 
have the whole universe tumble into sudden 
chaos ; but that such a consummation is to be 
brought about by voluntary asceticism is, in the 
present state of society, and independent of the 
opposition of women, greatly to be doubted. 

Schopenhauer has denied that a being superior 
to man could exist ; if, then, the nineteenth cent- 
ury, which plumes itself on the mental elevation 
and culture of the age, and in looking back at 
the ignorance of earlier epochs considers itself 
the top of all creation, if, then, the nineteenth 
century, in its perspicacity, refuses such a solu- 
tion, there is little left for humanity to do save to 
bear the pains of life as it may, or, better still, 
with the resignation which Leopardi long ago 

When, putting aside this eccentric theory of 
deliverance, the teaching of Schopenhauer is re- 
viewed, it will, according to the nature of the 
reader, bring with it a warm approval or a horri- 
fied dissent. To some he will appear like an in- 
carnation of the Spirit of Truth ; to others like 
the skeleton in Goya's painting, which, leaning 
with a leer from the tomb, scrawls on it the one 
word, Nada, nothing. 



IT was with something of the lassitude which 
succeeds an orgy that Schopenhauer turned from 
the riot of the will and undertook to examine 
such possibilities of happiness as life may yet 
afford, and, as incidental thereto, the manner in 
which such possibilities may be most enjoyed. 

To this subject he brought a sumptuous variety 
of reflections, which are summed up in a multi- 
colored essay, entitled " Lebensweisheit," or Con- 
duct of Life, but in which, in spite of the luxury 
of detail and brilliancy of description, Schopen- 
hauer almost unconsciously reminds the reader 
of a man who takes his constitutional at midnight, 
and preferentially when it rains. 

The suggestions that occur to him are almost 
flamboyant in their intensity, and yet about them 
all there circles such a series of dull limitations 
that one somehow feels a sense of dumbness and 
suffocation, a longing to . get away and rush out 
into an atmosphere less charged with sombre 

Concerning the baseness and shabbiness of 
every-day life Schopenhauer has but little to say. 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 125 

He touches but lightly on its infinite vulgarity, 
while its occasional splendor is equally unno- 
ticed. Indeed, he preaches not to redeem nor 
convert, but simply that his hearers may be in 
some measure enlightened as to the bald unsat- 
isfactoriness of all things, and so direct their in- 
dividual steps as to come as little in contact with 
avoidable misery as possible. To many it will, 
of course, seem quite appalling that a mind so 
richly receptive as his should have chosen such 
shaggy moorlands for habitual contemplation, 
when, had he wished, he might have feasted his 
eyes on resplendent panoramas. The moorlands, 
however, were not of his making ; he was merely 
a painter filling in the landscape with objects 
which stood within the perspective, and if he 
happened upon no resplendent panoramas, the 
fault lay simply in the fact that he had been 
baffled in his attempt to find them. 

Voltaire says, somewhere, " I do not know what 
the life eternal may be, but at all events this one 
is a very poor joke." In this sentiment Scho- 
penhauer solemnly concurred. That which was 
a boutade to the one became a theory to the 
other, and it is to his treatment of this subject 
that the attention of the reader is now invited. 
The introduction which he gives to it, if not as 
light as the overture to a ballet, will, it is be- 
lieved, still be found both interesting and instruc- 
tive, while its conclusion and supplement form, 
it may be noted, an admitted part of that which 
is best of the modern essayists. 

126 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

The first chapter opens with an enumeration 
of those possessions which differentiate the lot 
of man, and which in so doing form the basis of 
possible happiness. It has been said that the 
happiest land is the one which has little, if any, 
need of importations, and he notes that the man 
is most contented whose interior wealth suffices 
for his own amusement, and who demands but 
little, if anything, from the exterior world. Or, 
as Oliver Goldsmith has expressed it, 

" Still to ourselves in ev'ry place consigned 
Our own felicity we make or find." 

" In a world such as ours," Schopenhauer thinks, 
" he who has much to draw upon from within is 
not unlike a room in which stands a Christmas 
tree, bright, warm, and joyous, while all about 
are the snows and icicles of a December night." 

That which a man is in himself, that which ac- 
companies him into solitude, and which none can 
give him or take from him, is necessarily more 
essential than all that he may possess or all that 
he may appear in the eyes of others. The 
scholar, for instance, even when utterly alone 
feeds most agreeably on his own thoughts, and 
we are most of us very well aware that he whose 
intelligence is limited may ceaselessly vary his 
festivals and amusements without ever succeed- 
ing in freeing himself from the baleful weariness 
of boredom. 

According to Schopenhauer, then, the supreme 
and all-important elements of earthly happiness 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 1 27 

are subjective possessions, such as a noble char- 
acter, a capable mind, an easy disposition, and a 
well-organized and healthy body ; and it is these 
gifts, he rightly insists, that should be cultivated 
and preserved, even at the expense of wealth 
and emolument. An easy disposition, however, 
is that which above all other things contributes 
most directly to contentment. Gayety of heart is, 
indeed, its own recompense, and he who is really 
gay has a reason for so being from the very fact 
that he is so. Supposing a man to be young, 
handsome, rich, and respected, the one question 
to be asked about him is, Is he light-hearted? 
On the other hand, if he is light-hearted, little 
does it matter whether he is young or old, straight- 
limbed or deformed, poor or rich ; in any case he 
is contented. It is light-heartedness alone which 
is, so to speak, the hard cash of happiness ; all 
the rest is but the note-of-hand ; and in making 
this observation, he (Schopenhauer) is careful to 
point out that there is nothing that contributes 
so little to gayety as wealth, and noihing that 
contributes so much thereto as health. " It is 
in the lower classes, among the laborers, and par- 
ticularly among the tillers of the soil, that gayety 
and contentment are to be found, while on the 
other hand, the faces of the great and the rich 
generally present an expression of sullen con- 
straint. To thoroughly understand, however, how 
greatly happiness depends on gayety of dispo- 
sition and the state of health, it is only neces- 
sary to compare the impression which the same 

128 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

circumstances and similar wants bring to us in 
days of health and vigor, with that which is para- 
mount when through our condition we are pre- 
disposed to dullness and discontent. In brief, it 
is not the event itself, but the way in which we 
view it, that makes or unmakes our happiness." 
Or, as Epictetus said long ago, man is not moved 
by things, but by his opinion of them. 

As a general rule, nine tenths of happiness 
may be said to rest on the state of health ; when 
this is perfect, anything and everything may be 
a source of pleasure ; in illness, on the other 
hand, nothing, no matter what its nature may be, 
is capable of affording any real enjoyment. It 
follows, therefore, that it is wanton stupidity to 
sacrifice health for any purpose, even for wealth 
and fame, and especially to passing and fugitive 
pleasures, however alluring they may appear. 

The next class of possessions of which Scho- 
penhauer treats is property ; and in considering 
this division he seems not unlike that contented 
individual who, on seeing a quantity of objects ex- 
posed for sale, exclaimed pensively, " How much 
there is of which I have no need ! " 

Every man, it will be admitted, has his own 
horizon, beyond which his pretensions do not 
extend. They reach the edge, but they do not 
cross it. In other words, the absence of those 
possessions with which a man is unacquainted 
is in no sense a privation to him ; and it is prob- 
ably for this reason that the day-laborer bothers 
himself so little about the flaring wealth of the 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 129 

rich. Wealth, on the other hand, is like salt 
water ; the more one drinks, the greater the thirst. 
But, even so, this grim philosopher was far from 
despising it. "It is a rampart against an in- 
calculable number of discomforts ; and it is in 
this manner that it should be viewed, instead of 
being considered, as is generally the case, in the 
light of a permission to procure a diversity of 

As a practical man, Schopenhauer saw nothing 
that could make his ink blush in repeatedly rec- 
ommending the preservation of a fortune, made 
or inherited ; " for even," he says, " if it simply 
suffices to permit its possessor to live without the 
necessity of labor, it is still an inappreciable ad- 
vantage in that it brings with it an exemption 
from the general drudgery which is the ordinary 
lot of man. It is only on this condition that 
man is born free, master of his hour and his 
strength, and enabled to say each morning, ' The 
day is mine.' The difference, therefore, between 
him who has a thousand crowns a year and the 
landlord whose rent-roll runs into millions is in- 
finitely less than the difference between the first 
and the man who has nothing." 

If the man whose necessities are provided 
for is inclined to follow Schopenhauer's advice, 
he will, first of all, seek in repose and leisure the 
avoidance of every form of discomfort ; especially 
will he seek to lead a tranquil and unpretentious 
existence which, so far as possible, will be shel- 
tered from all intruders. After having for a cer- 

130 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

tain time kept up relations with what is termed 
the world, he will prefer a retired life ; and if 
he is of superior intelligence, he will give him- 
self up to solitude. This he will do, because the 
more a man possesses in himself, the less he 
has need of the exterior world. Superiority of 
intelligence will therefore lead him to insociabil- 
ity ; for, as Schopenhauer says, " It is precisely in 
solitude, where each of us is dependent on his 
own resources, that every one is brought face to 
face with his own individuality ; there the imbe- 
cile in his purple groans beneath the weight of 
his miserable self, while he who is mentally gifted 
peoples and animates with his thoughts the most 
arid and desert region." 

Now, it may be objected that contentment is 
not to be found in an idle folding of the hands 
behind a hedge set against vexation. Nor is this 
Schopenhauer's meaning. Wealth is but the 
means, not the source of contentment. It is not 
the certainty of an income that brings happiness, 
for its accompanying affranchisement from want 
carries the tenant to the opposite pole of misery, 
where gapes the hydra, ennui. And it is there 
that he whose necessities are provided for surely 
lands, unless he fills the hour with some one of 
the many elevated pursuits from which those who 
are obliged to work for their bread are in a great 
measure debarred. 

The third and last class of possessions that 
Schopenhauer discusses is that which a man rep- 
resents ; or, in other words, the manner in which 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 131 

he appears to his neighbors. " There is," he 
says, " no superstition more universally dominant 
than that which leads us to attach a high value to 
the opinion of others ; and whether it be that 
this superstition has its roots in our very nature, 
or that it has followed us up from the birth of so- 
ciety and civilization, it is none the less certain 
that it influences our conduct in a manner which 
is incommensurate, and hostile to our well-being. 
This influence may be traced from the point 
in which it shows itself beneath the anxious and 
servile deference to the qu'en dira-t-on y to that in 
which it drives the dagger of Virginius into his 
daughter's heart, or else to where it leads men to 
sacrifice their peace, their fortune, their wealth, 
and their lives, for the sake of posthumous re- 

The existence, however, which we lead in the 
minds of others is a possession, Schopenhauer 
has carefully explained, which, through a singular 
weakness, while highly prized is yet entirely un- 
important to our happiness. Indeed, if the com- 
parison be drawn between that which we are in 
reality and that which we are in the eyes of oth- 
ers, it will be seen that the first term of the com- 
parison comprises our entire existence, for its 
sphere of action is in our own perceptions, while, 
on the other hand, that which we represent acts 
on other minds than our own, and in consequence 
has no direct existence for us, and an indirect 
one only so far as it may influence their conduct 
toward us. The wealthy, in their uttermost mag- 

132 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

nificence, can but say, "Our happiness is entirely 
outside of us ; it dwells in the minds of others." 
Certainly, to a happiness of this description every 
thinker is indifferent, or will necessarily become 
so as he grows aware of the superficiality and 
dullness of mind, the narrow sentiments and lim- 
ited ideas, the absurdity of opinion and number- 
less errors, which go to the making of his neigh- 
bor's brain. Indeed, it is generally sufficient to 
note with what contempt half-a-dozen imbeciles 
will speak of some distinguished man, to be quite 
ready to agree with Schopenhauer that in accord- 
ing a high value to the opinion of others we are 
paying them an honor which they in no sense 

It is essential to our well-being to thoroughly 
understand the simple fact that each one lives 
but in his own particular skin and not in the 
opinion of others, and that, therefore, our actual 
condition as determined by health, temperament, 
intellect, wife, children, and home, is a hundred 
times more important than what it may please 
others to think about us ; fame, of course, is 
very pleasant ; so is glory ; but, after all, what do 
they amount to ? As has been seen, Leopard! 
snapped his fingers at them both. To him they 
were simply illusions. Schopenhauer goes more 
deeply into the subject, and explains with great 
opulence of detail and fantasy of adjective that 
glory and fame are founded on that which a man 
is in comparison to others ; in other words, that 
their value is purely relative, and would disappear 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 133 

entirely if every one became that which a celeb- 
rity is already. It is not fame that is so desira- 
ble, but rather the merit which should precede it. 
"The predisposing conditions are, so to speak, 
the substance, while glory itself is but the acci- 
dent, which works on its possessor as an exterior 
symptom, and confirms his own high opinion of 
himself. But this symptom is yet not infallible, 
for is there not glory without merit and merit 
without fame ? " 

As glory is incontestably but the echo, the 
image, the shadow, the simulachre of merit, and 
as in any case that which is admirable should be 
more highly valued than the admiration that it 
excites, it follows that that which causes happi- 
ness does not consist in glory, but rather in the 
attracting force of merit ; or, to put it more ex- 
actly, in the possession of such character and 
faculties as predispose thereto. 

To be deserving of fame is, then, its own ex- 
ceeding great reward. There all the honor lies, 
and necessarily this must be true, " for, as a rule, 
the reverberation of a glory that is to echo 
through future ages rarely reaches the ears of 
him who is the object ; and though certain in- 
stances to the contrary may be objected, yet they 
have usually been due to fortuitous circumstances 
which are otherwise without great importance. 
Men lack ordinarily the proper balance of judg- 
ment which is necessary for the appreciation of 
superior productions ; and in these matters they 
usually take the opinion of others, and that, too, 

134 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

in such wise that ninety-nine admirers out of a 
hundred accord their praise at the nod of one." 
It is for this reason that the approbation of one's 
contemporaries, however numerous their voices 
may be, has so slight a value for the thinker, for 
at best he can hearken to the voices of the few, 
which in themselves may be but the effect of the 
moment. " Would a virtuoso be greatly flattered 
by the applause of his public if he learned that, 
with but two or three exceptions, the auditorium 
was filled with deaf mutes who, to conceal their 
infirmity, clapped a loud approval so soon as they 
saw a real listener move his hands ? And how 
would it be if he knew the leaders of the clique 
were often paid to procure a great success to the 
most insignificant scraper of cat-gut ? " 

It is with reflections of this description that 
Schopenhauer explains why it is that sudden ce- 
lebrity so rarely passes into immortal glory, and 


..." how hard it is to climb 
The heights where Fame's proud temple shines afar," 

and even, the summit gained, the uselessness of 
it all. 

This same conclusion has been reached by sev- 
eral other writers, notably by Leopardi, whose 
views have been already explained, and by Von 
Hartmann, whose theories are mentioned in the 
next chapter ; but the main idea has perhaps 
been best expressed by D'Alembert, who, in 
speaking of the temple of fame, says, " Its inte- 
rior is inhabited only by the dead who were not 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 135 

there in their life-time, and by certain aspirants 
who are shown the door as soon as they die." 

To sum up what Schopenhauer has set forth, 
and of which the foregoing detached ideas can 
give at best but a lame conception, we find that 
to his mind, as perhaps to that of every serious 
thinker, the first and most essential condition of 
contentment is the quality of character ; and this 
would be essential if only because it is always 
in action, but it is so, even to a greater extent, 
because it is the only possession which cannot 
in some manner be taken from us. In this sense 
he considers its value as absolute when opposed 
to the relative value of mere possessions and the 
opinion of others. In brief, man is not so sus- 
ceptible to the influence of the exterior world as 
it is generally supposed, for only Time can exer- 
cise his sovereign rights upon him. Beneath this 
force the physical and intellectual qualities wane 
and gradually succumb, the moral character alone 
remaining invulnerable. 

Considered in this connection, actual posses- 
sions and the opinions which others hold con- 
cerning us have this advantage over character: 
they need not necessarily be affected by time; 
moreover, being accessible in their nature they 
both may be acquired, while, on the other hand, 
character once established remains invariable for 
life. Schopenhauer evidently does not hold with 
him who sings 

" That men may rise on stepping-stones 
Of their dead selves, to higher things." 

1 36 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

All that can be done, he has explained, is to em- 
ploy the individuality, such as it is, to the great- 
est profit ; or, in other words, a man should pur- 
sue only those aspirations which correspond to 
his disposition, and only choose in consequence 
that occupation and walk of life which is best 
suited to it. 

From the preponderance thus given to the first 
of these three divisions over the two others, it 
follows that it is far better to watch over health 
and the development of the intellect than it is 
to attend to the acquisition of wealth. Schopen- 
hauer, of course, does not mean that the acquisi- 
tion of that which is necessary to one's proper 
maintenance should be in any wise neglected ; far 
from it. His idea is simply that a superfluity 
of riches, instead of contributing to well-being, 
brings with it an inevitable vexation in the con- 
stant care which the management of a large for- 
tune demands. 

Briefly, then, the essential element of content- 
ment is that which one is in himself, and it is 
simply because the dose is ordinarily so small 
that the majority of those who have been con- 
querors in the struggle with want feel themselves 
to be as thoroughly unhappy as those who are still 
in the thick of the fight. But still, whatever the 
issue of the conflict may be, each one among us 
is enjoined to aspire to a good repute. Honor is 
an inappreciable belonging, and glory, the most 
exquisite of all that is within the reach of man, 
is the Golden Fleece of the elect. 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 137 

The second and third divisions have upon each 
other a reciprocal effect: wealth brings with it 
the good opinion of others, and the good opinion 
of others has aided many a man on the road to 
fortune ; taken together they represent over again 
the habes, haberis of Petronius, yet the factors 
that reside within us contribute more liberally to 
contentment than those which are born of things. 

It is somewhat in this manner, but with a con- 
ciseness of deduction and a felicity of diction 
which the foregoing summary is inadequate even 
to suggest, that Schopenhauer, without any no- 
ticeable effort, points quietly and with a certain 
suavity of self-confidence to the fact that there 
is, in spite of all our bluster and hurrying about, 
very little in life that is of much consequence. 
There is, of course, little that is terrifying in what 
he has written ; there is no incentive and no 
stimulus, as the phrase goes, to be up and doing ; 
indeed, to the reflective mind his logic will have 
somewhat the effect of a sedative, and to many 
he will seem to hold that the best use life can be 
put to is to pass it in a sort of dilettante quiet- 
ism. Such in the main is his idea, but it is an 
idea which, to be acted upon, necessitates a re- 
finement of the senses and a burnish of the intel- 
lect such as is possessed but by the few, and 
consequently the fear of its general adoption 
need cause but small alarm. It may be remem- 
bered that, beyond the surface of things here ex- 
amined, he pointed, in another essay, to the in- 
fluence of morality on general happiness, and 

138 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

recommended the practice of charity, forbear- 
ance, and good will to all men, as one of the first 
conditions of mental content. 

Against all this, naturally, many objections 
might be raised, and several ameliorations could 
be suggested, but in the main the teaching has a 
certain sound value which it would be difficult to 
talk away. Champfort has said, " Happiness is 
no easy matter; it is hard to find it within us, 
and impossible to find it elsewhere," and this 
aphorism, with which Schopenhauer decked his 
title-page, served pretty much as keynote to the 
whole essay. All the way through he has in- 
sisted that the prime essential is what one is in 
one's self, that is, in character and disposition, 
but not wealth nor yet the esteem of others ; 
these, it is true, are pleasing additions, but not 
the sine qua non. 

Wealth, however, is too greatly prized to suffer 
from a theoretic treatment any appreciable dimi- 
nution in general esteem, and there are necessa- 
rily few who will object to it because they are 
told it is an extra burden. Perhaps Schopen- 
hauer would not have turned his back upon it 
either had he been put to the test, but as he es- 
caped that, the conjecture is comparatively use- 
less ; still, few men can eat two dinners, and 
those who have that capacity are seldom objects 
of envy, even to the disciples of Baron Brisse. 
The dinners may stand, of course, for figurative 
repasts, and, according to Schopenhauer, if a man 
has enough, a superfluity is not only unnecessary, 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 139 

but may readily resolve itself into a cause of 

Certainly, as Schiller said, we are all born in 
Arcadia : that is, we enter life fully persuaded 
that happiness exists, and that it is most easy to 
make acquaintance with it ; but, generally speak- 
ing, experience soon lets us know that happiness 
is a will o' the wisp, which is only visible from 
afar, while on the other hand, suffering and pain 
have a reality so insistent that they present them- 
selves not only at once and unexpectedly, but 
without any of the flimsiness of illusion. In 
Schopenhauer's view, the best the world has to 
offer is an existence of painless tranquillity ; 
pleasures are and always will be negative, and to 
consider them otherwise is a mistake which brings 
its own punishment with it. Pain, on the con- 
trary, is positive, and it is in its absence that the 
ladder to possible contentment may be found. 
If, then, from a condition of this description, viz. : 
one which is devoid of pain, boredom be also 
subtracted, then the reader may be sure that this 
is the pinnacle of earthly happiness, and that 
anything that lies beyond belongs to the domain 
of pure chimera. 

In the chapter succeeding the one just consid- 
ered Schopenhauer added certain reflections on 
the proper conduct of life which, though loose 
and unsystematic, are yet peculiarly fertile in sug- 
gestion, and entirely free from the more or less 
accentuated platitudes with which other writers 
have dulled the subject. 

140 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

In this essay he holds that the supreme rule of 
earthly wisdom is contained in Aristotle's dictum 
that the sage will seek to dwell where pain is 
not, and not where pleasure is. The truth of this 
axiom he establishes by a constant reiteration of 
his favorite theory that pleasure as well as happi- 
ness is negative, and only pain is real. Now 
other writers, particularly Mr. James Sully and 
Herr von Hartmann, have rebelled against this 
statement, but the force of their arguments has 
not been strong enough to confute it. Indeed, 
mere logic can make no man contented, and in 
any event, if a philosopher considers pleasure as 
a negative condition, and the critic prefers to 
look upon it in a different light, the student is no 
more bound to agree with the one than with the 
other ; he will, if properly advised, draw his con- 
clusions from his own sensations. In accordance 
with the best views, however, Schopenhauer is 
right and his critics wrong. A homely example 
which he suggests may perhaps serve to set the 
matter straight : when we are in perfect health, 
and there is but one little painful spot some- 
where for instance, an aching tooth or a swol- 
len finger our otherwise perfect health is unno- 
ticed, and our attention is directed entirely to the 
pain we are experiencing, while pleasure, deter- 
mined, as always, by the totality of the sensations, 
is entirely effaced. In the same manner, when 
everything in which we are interested is going as 
we wish, save one thing which is going the wrong 
way, it is this particular thing that is constantly 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 141 

in our mind, and not the other and more import- 
ant matters, which are giving us no concern. 

Schopenhauer's advice, therefore, is that atten- 
tion should not be directed to the pleasures of 
life, but to the means by which its innumerable 
evils may best be escaped. If this recommenda- 
tion is not sound, then Voltaire's aphorism hap- 
piness is but a dream and only pain is real is 
as false in appearance as it is correct in reality. 
Whoever, then, would draw up a balance sheet of 
pleasure and pain should not base the sum total 
on the amount of pleasures which he has en- 
joyed, but rather in accordance with the pains 
which he has avoided. For as it has been pointed 
out, life at best is not given to us to be enjoyed, 
but to be endured, and the happiest man is, there- 
fore, he who has wandered through life with the 
smallest burden of physical and mental suffering, 
and not he to whom the most vivid delights and 
in tensest joys have been accorded. 

In any case, the greatest piece of stupidity of 
which man can be guilty is to wish to transform 
his theatre of misery into a pleasure-ground, and 
to attempt to seek happiness therein, instead of 
trying, as he should, to avert as many pains as 
possible. There are, of course, many who are 
foolish enough not to take this view of life ; but, 
according to Schopenhauer, those who do not do 
so are much more at fault than those who, with 
excess of precaution, look upon the world as a 
burning pit, and occupy themselves to the best of 
their ability in procuring a fire-proof dwelling. 

142 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

The simpleton will always run after pleasure, 
and the pessimist will do all he can to give pain 
a wide berth ; if, in spite of his efforts, the suc- 
cess of the latter is small, the fault is not so much 
his as that of fate ; and if, in pursuance of this 
idea, he has taken a very roundabout way and 
uselessly sacrificed any amount of possible pleas- 
ures without any appreciable benefit, he can at 
least take heart again in the knowledge that he 
has in reality lost nothing at all, for the possible 
pleasures are such pure chimeras that it is simply 
childish to grieve about them. 

It is, Schopenhauer says, because this mistake 
is so frequently made in favor of optimism that 
such a number of misfortunes occur, for in those 
moments that we are free from discomfort " dis- 
quieting desires dazzle our eyes with the illusions 
of an unreal yet seductive happiness, and lure us 
on to a suffering which is neither the one nor the 
other; then indeed do we grieve over the lost es- 
tate, which was exempt from pain, as over a par- 
adise on which we have wittingly turned the key. 
In this way it seems as though some evil spirit 
was constantly working a deceptive mirage to 
draw us from that freedom from pain, which is 
the supreme and only real happiness." 

Now, the average young man is usually pos- 
sessed of some vague conviction that the world, 
stretching out before him to unseen limits, is the 
seat of a tangible happiness, which only escapes 
those who are not clever enough to grasp it. 
This conviction, moreover, is strengthened by ro- 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 143 

mance and verse, and by that hypocrisy which 
leads the world always by the thread of exterior 
appearance. Ever after, his life is a more or less 
prudently conducted hunt, a chase for a fictitious 
game, until at last with a round turn he is pulled 
up face to face with disenchantment, and finds 
that the infinite vistas narrow down to a dark al- 
ley, with a dead wall at the end. 

On the other hand, the careful observer of men 
and things will mark a protest on his own exist- 
ence ; he will have no great hopes, and but few 
regrets ; Plato long ago said there is nothing in 
life worth a struggle, and to this maxim Schopen- 
hauer's ideal reader will attune his days and, in 
any variations he may attempt, keep always to the 
minor key. 

The chief difficulty, however, which the candi- 
date in pessimism will encounter in his first at- 
tempt to practice the foregoing recommendations 
is that which is raised by the hypocrisy of the 
world, to which allusion has been already made ; 
and yet, in Schopenhauer's teaching, the most 
practical lesson that can be given to youth is the 
showing up of the whole thing for the sham that 
it is. "The splendors are merest tinsel," he 
says ; " the essence of the thing is lacking ; the 
fetes, the balls, the illuminations, the music, are 
but the banners, the indications, the hieroglyph- 
ics of joy; yet, as a rule, joy is absent, it alone 
has sent a regret. When it does present itself, it 
comes ordinarily without invitation and unan- 
nounced j it enters, sans fafon, in the simplest 

144 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

manner, often for the most trivial reason, and 
under circumstances that are well-nigh insignifi- 
cant. Like the gold in Australia, it is spread 
about here and there according to the whim of 
hazard, without law or rule, generally in small 
particles, and but seldom in an appreciable quan- 

This certainly cannot be termed an enthusias- 
tic view of life, nor, for that matter, is it intended 
to be so considered. There was too much unrea- 
soning enthusiasm, Schopenhauer thought, and 
too much unwary skating over thin surfaces, and 
it was precisely for this reason that he set about 
painting Danger in the biggest and blackest-look- 
ing characters. If his advice, therefore, is not 
always cheerful, it is at least practical, and in 
any event no one can go far astray in following 
the monitory finger-posts which he was the first 
to erect ; the wayfarer who takes them for guid- 
ance may perhaps stand still, but at least he will 
not stumble into any artificial pitfalls, or happen 
upon unexpected quagmires. 

In treating of our conduct to ourselves, Scho- 
penhauer lays much stress on the recommenda- 
tion that such proportion be preserved between 
the attention which we give to the present and 
that which we grant to the future, that the one 
will in nowise interfere with the other. As there 
are many who live for the hour and many who 
live for the future, the right measure is seldom 
attained ; but, as Schopenhauer points out, the 
future, like the past, has a value which is more 

The Borderland* of Happiness. 145 

apparent than real. It is the present that is act- 
ual, it is the present that is certain, while the fu- 
ture, on the contrary, usually turns out in a man- 
ner totally different from our expectation. The 
distance which " robes the mountains " expands 
them in our thoughts, but the present alone is 
true and effective ; and as it is therein that our 
existence exclusively rests, it should not only be 
hospitably received, but every hour that is free 
from vexation or pain should be enjoyed to the 
fullest extent, and not saddened with the memory 
of irrecoverable hopes, or darkened by apprehen- 
sions of the morrow. In other words, let the 
dead past bury its dead, and for the moment 
take Seneca for model, and agree with him that 
each day separately is a separate life. As for the 
future, it rests in the lap of the gods. 

" The only misfortunes concerning which we 
should alarm ourselves are those that are inevi- 
table ; but then, after all, how many are there of 
this nature ? Misfortunes, broadly considered, 
are either possible and probable, or else certain, 
though in the indefinite future ; and if we bother 
ourselves over all that might come to pass, we 
would never enjoy a moment's repose." In or- 
der, therefore, that tranquillity may not be un- 
necessarily disturbed, Schopenhauer advises that 
possible misfortunes be looked upon as though 
they would never occur, and inevitable misfor- 
tunes as though they were still far distant. 

It is a curious fact that the blind, who of all 
people are usually pitied as the most unfortunate, 

146 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

possess, as a class, the calmest and most con- 
tented expression. This phenomenon may serve 
as some corroboration of a theory, which Scho- 
penhauer expands at great length, that the nar- 
rower the circle of vision the greater the happi- 
ness ; and conversely, the wider it is the greater 
the inquietude and torment. It is, then, in the 
simplicity and uniformity of life so long, of 
course, as it does not engender weariness of 
mind that the greatest measure of happiness is 
to be found. Under conditions of this descrip- 
tion, which every poet from Horace to Joaquin 
Miller has more or less praised, the burden from 
which life is inseparable is borne most lightly, 
and existence flows like a rivulet, without tides 
or waves. 

The claims of society, the effort to keep in the 
swim, dans le mouvement, as the French say, is 
not, of course, very conducive to the tranquil 
contentment which is here so earnestly com- 
mended. Schopenhauer has much to say on the 
subject. As a self-constituted recluse he necessa- 
rily judged the world, and as necessarily found it 
wanting. Indeed, it may fairly be said that he 
held in utter contempt the entire machinery of 
fashion, and looked upon the whole thing as a 
toy for imbeciles. To say that he hated it would 
be unjust, for, like most sensible people, he held 
hatred to be an elixir far too precious to be wasted 
on trivial matters. He simply took up society 
and then let it drop, and he did so not because 
it soiled his gloves, but because it did not seem 
worth the holding. 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 147 

Such views as he cared to express on this sub- 
ject are unmarked by any striking vividness of 
originality ; for the most part they are simple, 
everyday observations, as pertinent to Europe 
half a century ago as to contemporary London 
and New York, and imply, briefly, that society is 
a mill of the conventional which grinds individu- 
alities into a tiresome sameness of sample. In- 
dividuality was like a strong-box into which Scho- 
penhauer placed all his valuables, and to which, 
we are led to believe, he clung with all his might 
and main. Rather than have it tampered with 
he carried it off to a hermitage and kept it there, 
one might say, in cotton. It may be, however, 
that the underlying reason of the sombre ob- 
liqueness with which he viewed the world at 
large sprang from a cause which was natural, if 
commonplace ; it did not appreciate him. Nor 
is this very surprising ; society, as a rule, has an 
immense fund of appreciation, which it lavishes 
liberally on ever}' merit, save alone that of intel- 
lectual ability ; on this it looks askant, or, as 
Schopenhauer says, " as if it were smuggled." 
"Furthermore," he goes on to say, "good so- 
ciety, so called, not only brings one in contact 
with a lot of people whom he can neither approve 
of nor like, but it will not permit us to be our- 
selves, to be such as our nature demands ; on 
the contrary, it compels us, that we may remain 
on the same diapason with the rest, to shrivel 
up completely, and even at times to appear de- 

148 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

Wit and repartee are admittedly out of place 
save among one's peers ; in ordinary society such 
manifestations are either not understood, or 
looked upon as dreadfully bad form. For that 
matter, it is only the novice who thinks that bril- 
liant conversational powers will serve as pass- 
port ; as a rule, it does nothing of the sort ; 
rather does it excite among the majority a feeling 
nearly akin to hatred, and which is all the more 
bitter because it must be concealed. 

" Ordinarily," Schopenhauer says, " when two 
people are talking together, so soon as one of 
them notices a great superiority on the part of 
the other he tacitly concludes, and without defi- 
nite reason for so doing, that his own inferiority 
has been noticed by his companion, for whom he 
immediately conceives a blind resentment, even 
a violent dislike ; nor in this is he much to be 
blamed, for what is a display of wit and judg- 
ment but an accusation to others of their own 
commonplace stupidity and dullness ? To please 
in society, therefore, one needs to be scatter- 
brained or ignorant ; and it is precisely those who 
are the one or the other, or even both, who are 
welcome and well received." 

From Schopenhauer's standpoint, then, the so- 
ciety that is worth the trouble of cultivating is 
not such as is told of in the morning papers. 
The ball-goers, the dinner-givers, the pleasure- 
seekers of every class and denomination, were to 
him mentally insolvent, and unable to offer any 
indemnity for the boredom and fatigue which 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 149 

their reunions and conversation created. To be 
socially inclined was to him irrefutable evidence 
of a vacuous mind ; and with some of that grim 
humor which characterized much of his work, he 
compared the modern assembly to that Russian 
orchestra which, composed of horns that have 
but one note apiece, is harmonious only through 
the exact coincidence of each instrument ; taken 
separately, each one is appallingly monotonous, 
and it is only in conjunction with others that 
they amount to anything at all. So it is, he finds, 
with the majority of people ; individually, they 
seem to have but one thought, and are in conse- 
quence both tiresome and sociable. 

There is a tolerably familiar anecdote of Louis 
XIII., which represents that feeble monarch as 
hailing one of his officers with the bland sugges- 
tion that they should wile away the hour in com- 
mon boredom : " Venez, monsieur," run the his- 
toric words, " allons nous ennuyer ensemble ; " 
and it is perhaps this self-same, but unanalyzed 
motive which leads so many to ease their weari- 
ness in the companionship of their fellows, for, 
after all, it cannot but be admitted that the most 
gregarious seek the presence of others, and even 
of those for whom they care nothing, not so 
much for the sake of society as to get away from 
themselves and the dull monotone of an empty 

Such, at any rate, is Schopenhauer's idea ; and 
he is careful, in pointing to the retired existence 
of all really distinguished thinkers, to note that 

150 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

the desire for companionship is not derived from 
a love of society, but from a fear of solitude, and 
that so soon as the latter is mastered there is no 
further desire to mingle with the crowd. The 
only society, therefore, that is worth the trouble 
of cultivation is that of one's own self ; in this 
Schopenhauer apparently makes no exception ; 
however closely the bonds of love or friendship 
may be woven, there is always some clash of tem- 
perament ; an echoless shock it may be, but to 
nerves properly attuned none the less unpleasant. 
In regard to the society of the distinguished 
thinkers, of whose conspicuous solitude he makes 
constant parade, nothing is said ; but it is per- 
haps allowable to suppose that genius, when it 
does descend from its lofty seclusion, quickly 
tires of giving, giving always, without return, and 
on its summits fraternizes as seldom with its 
peers as kings do with their equals. In brief, 
then, the sociability of man is in an inverse ratio 
to his intellectual value, and to say of some one 
" he is not at all sociable," may be generally 
taken to mean " he is a man of great ability." 

The praises of solitude have been written over 
and over again ; almost all the essayists, and 
most of the poets, have expatiated more or less 
volubly on its charms, but no one has entered so 
thoroughly into the core of the subject as did 
this spectacled misanthrope. Emerson has told 
a quaint little story of a friend who took an ex- 
quisite delight in thinking of the incalculable 
number of places where he was not, and whose 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 1 5 1 

idea of felicity was to dwell far off somewhere 
among the back stars, " there to wear out ages 
in solitude, and forget memory itself." Had 
Schopenhauer known this gentleman he would 
have loved him, though perhaps at a distance ; as 
it was, he expressed an approval that was well- 
nigh rapturous of La Bruyere's well-known axiom : 
" All our misfortunes come from an inability to 
be alone," and at measured intervals repeated 
Voltaire's maxim that " the world is full of peo- 
ple who are not worth speaking to." His own 
ideas on the subject savor highly of the epigram- 
matic. " Solitude," he says, " offers a double 
advantage to the thinker : the first in being with 
himself, the second in not being with others." 

The love of solitude, however, cannot be con- 
sidered otherwise than as an acquired taste ; it 
must come as the result of experience and reflec- 
tion, and advance with the development of the 
intellect as well as with the progress of age. A 
child will cry with fright if it be left alone even 
for a moment ; in boyhood, solitude is a severe 
penance ; young men are eminently sociable, and 
it is only the more elevated among them who 
from time to time wander off by themselves ; but 
even so, a day passed in strict seclusion is no 
easy matter. In middle age, it is not so difficult, 
while to the aged, solitude seems the natural ele- 
ment. But in each individual, separately consid- 
ered, the growth of the inclination for solitude is 
always in proportion to the strength of the intel- 
lect, and, according to Schopenhauer, it is never 

152 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

thoroughly matured until the individual becomes 
firmly convinced that society is the most disa- 
greeable of all the unpleasant things in the 

To this conclusion both Petrarch and Zim- 
merman came in their respective works on soli- 
tude. Chamfort says somewhere, very wittily, 
" It is sometimes said of a man that he lives 
alone and does not care for society; this is 
very much the same as saying that he does not 
care for exercise, because he does not make 
excursions at night in the forest of Bondy." In 
short, all those whom Prometheus has fashioned 
from his finer clay have brought testimony of 
like purport. To Schopenhauer a desire for soli- 
tude was a sure indication of aristocratic tastes. 
" Every blackguard," he says, " is pitiably socia- 
ble, but true nobility is detected in the man who 
finds no pleasure in the companionship of others, 
and who, in preferring solitude to society, gradu- 
ally acquires the conviction that, save in rare ex- 
ceptions, there is little choice between isolation 
and vulgarity." Angelus Silesius, whose name 
has descended to us in a halo of Christian ten- 
derness, bears witness to the truth of this theory, 

" Though solitude is hard, yet the refined 
Will still in ev'ry place a desert find." 

It is especially in old age, when one has 
ceased to expect anything in particular from the 
generality of mankind, when one has become 
pretty well satisfied that in the long run men do 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 153 

not improve on acquaintance, and when one is 
usually divested of those illusions which make 
the companionship of others seem desirable, it 
is at this period that the taste for solitude, which 
heretofore has demanded a succession of strug- 
gles, becomes at once natural and matter of fact. 
One feels, then, as much at ease therein as the 
fish does at high water. 

But in spite of the advantages of solitude there 
is a hackneyed proverb about the rose and the 
thorn which has here a most direct application. 
In the same manner that every breath of frosty 
air injuriously affects any one who constantly 
keeps to his own room, so does a man's disposi- 
tion become so sensitive in solitude that he is 
vexed and annoyed at the most trivial incident, 
at a word, or even at an expression of the coun- 
tenance. It is hard, however, to catch Scho- 
penhauer napping, and for this he has a remedy 
which, if not within the reach of all, is none the 
less efficacious. His recipe is simply that every 
aspirant should accustom himself to carry a part 
of his solitude into society, and learn to be alone 
even in a crowd ; in other words, not to tell others 
at once what he thinks, and not to pay much at- 
tention to what others may say ; in this way he 
will in a measure keep himself unaffected by the 
stupidities which must necessarily surge about 
him, and harden himself to exterior influences. 

As has been noted, it was far from Schopen- 
hauer's intention to recommend an idle folding 
of the hands. Solitude is all very well, but to 

154 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

be habitable it must be peopled with thoughts 
and deeds ; the essence of life is movement, and 
in inaction it is a most difficult thing to be tran- 
quil. Indeed, the most thoughtless must do some- 
thing, even if that something consist but in a tat- 
too beaten on the window-pane. Schopenhauer's 
words, however, are presumably not addressed to 
thoughtless people. To struggle and cope is, he 
says, as much of a necessity to man as burrowing 
is to the mole. To conquer resistance consti- 
tutes the fullness of human delight, and whether 
the obstacles are of a material nature, as in ac- 
tion and exercise, or purely mental, as in study 
and research, it is the combat and the victory 
that bring happiness with them. 

In treating of our conduct to others, Schopen- 
hauer seems always to be peering down and 
sounding bottom in unfathomed depths of the 
human heart, and to be taking measure of those 
crevices and sinuosities for which Balzac and La 
Rochefoucauld, with all their equipment of bit- 
terness, possessed no adequate compass. The 
result of his soundings and measurements is a 
lesson of circumspection and indulgence, of which 
the first stands as guarantee against prejudice, 
and the second as shelter from quarrels and dis- 
putes. Machiavelli warned every one to as 
carefully avoid an injury to the self-esteem of 
an inferior as one would the commission of a 
crime. Schopenhauer goes even further ; his 
theory is that whoever is obliged to live among 
his fellows should never repulse any one, how- 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 155 

ever pitiful, wicked, or ridiculous his character 
may be ; on the contrary, he should accept him 
as something immutable, and consider that there 
must necessarily be some one of that class too. 
If he does otherwise he commits not only an im- 
prudence, but provokes a life-long enmity, for, 
after all, no one can modify his own character, 
and if a man is condemned unreservedly there 
is, of necessity, nothing left for him to do but to 
declare war to the knife. It is for this reason 
that when one wishes, or is obliged to live among 
his fellow-creatures, it becomes necessary to let 
each one work out his own nature and accept 
each individual as he stands ; the most that can 
be done is to attempt to utilize the qualities 
and dispositions of each, so far as they may be 
adaptable, but in no case is a man to be con- 
demned purely and simply for what he is. This 
is the true signification of the dictum, Live and 
let live. 

Meanwhile, in learning how to treat others it 
will not come amiss, Schopenhauer goes on to say, 
to exercise a little patience on any of the inani- 
mate objects which in virtue of some physical or 
mechanical necessity obstinately annoy and thwart 
us every day ; for in so doing we learn to bestow 
on our fellows the patience already acquired, and 
in this manner become accustomed to the thought 
that they, too, whenever they form an obstacle to 
our wishes, do so because they cannot help it, in 
virtue of a natural law which is as rigorous as 
that which acts on inanimate things, and because 

156 The Philosophy of Disenchantment, 

it is as absurd to get angry with them as to be an- 
noyed at the stone which slips between our feet. 

But in all this Schopenhauer is far from rec- 
ommending any over-indulgence or excess of 
amiability, for he readily recognizes that the ma- 
jority of people are like children, who become 
pert as soon as they are spoiled. Refuse a loan 
to a friend, he says, and you will not lose him as 
readily as you would if you had advanced the 
money ; in the same manner a trace of haughti- 
ness and indifference on your part will generally 
quell any of those preliminary symptoms of ar- 
rogance that follow upon too much kindness. In- 
deed, it is the idea that one has need of them 
that few men can bear, they become presump- 
tuous at once ; and it is for this reason that 
there are so few with whom one can be really in- 

Most especially should we avoid any familiar- 
ity with vulgar natures. " If by chance an inferior 
imagines for a moment that I have more need of 
him than he has of me, he will suddenly act as 
though I had stolen something from him, and 
hurry to revenge himself and get his property 
back." In brief, the only way in which superior- 
ity can be maintained is in letting others see that 
we have no need of them at all. Moreover, Scho- 
penhauer notes, it is a good plan to appear a 
trifle disdainful from time to time ; such an atti- 
tude has a strengthening effect on friendship : 
" Chi non istima, vien stimato " (he who shows 
no respect is respected himself) runs the saga- 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 157 

cious Italian proverb. But above all, if any one 
does possess a high value in our eyes it should 
be hidden from him as a sin. This advice is not 
particularly exhilarating, but it is sound. Too 
much kindness disagrees with dogs, to say noth- 
ing of men. 

It is a curious fact that the more intellectual 
a man is the more easily he is deceived. There 
seems to be something almost incompatible be- 
tween a high degree of culture and an extended 
knowledge of men and things, whereas, in the 
case of people of ordinary calibre, a lack of ex- 
perience will not necessarily hinder them from 
properly conducting their affairs ; they possess, 
as it were, an a priori knowledge which is fur- 
nished to them by their own nature, and it is pre- 
cisely the absence of this knowledge that causes 
the mistakes of the more refined. Even when a 
man has learned from the teaching of others and 
through his own experience just what he may ex- 
pect from men in general, even when he is thor- 
oughly convinced that five sixths of them are so 
constituted that it is better for him to have noth- 
ing at all to do with them, even then, his knowl- 
edge is insufficient to preserve him from many 
false calculations. A presumable wiseacre, for 
instance, may accidentally be drawn into the so- 
ciety of people with whom he is unacquainted, 
and be astonished to find that in conversation 
and manners they are sensible, loyal, and sin- 
cere, and, perhaps, intelligent and witty. In that 
case, Schopenhauer warns him to keep well on 

1 5 8 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

his guard, for the reason that Nature is entirely 
unlike the dramaturge who, when he wishes to 
create a scoundrel or a simpleton, sets about it 
so awkwardly that he seems to be standing be- 
hind each character in turn, and in disavowing 
their gestures and words to be warning the audi- 
ence that one is a ruffian and the other a fool, 
and that no one is to believe a word that they 
say. It is not at all in this way that Nature acts : 
her method is that of Shakespeare and Goethe, 
in whose plays each person, be he the Devil him- 
self, speaks as he ought to, and is conceived so 
realistically that he attracts and commands atten- 
tion. To think, then, that the Devil goes about 
with horns, and the fool with bells, is to lay one's 
self open to a continual deception, for, as a rule, 
our moralist says, men behave very much like the 
moon or like the hunchback ; they show only one 
side, and even then they have a peculiar talent 
for making up their faces into a species of mask, 
which exactly represents what they ought to be, 
and this they assume whenever they wish to be 
well received. Put not your trust in princes, say 
some ; Schopenhauer's advice is, Put not your 
trust in masks ; and to substantiate his warning 
he quotes an old proverb, which holds that no 
matter how vicious a dog may be he can still wag 
his tail. 

To all these rules and suggestions there are, of 
course, exceptions ; there are even exceptions that 
are incommensurably great, for the difference be- 
tween individuals is gigantic, but taken as a whole, 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 1 59 

Schopenhauer condemns the world as irreclaim- 
ably bad, and it may be added that one does not 
need to be a professional pessimist to arrive at 
very nearly the same conclusion. But beyond 
these broad recommendations a few others are 
given on our proper bearing and attitude to the 
world at large, and which, summed up in his own 
words, amount, in brief, to the teaching that one 
half of all wisdom consists in neither loving nor 
hating, and the other half in saying nothing and 
believing nothing. 

Lamennais exclaimed one day, " My soul was 
born with a sore," and to some it may perhaps 
seem that on Schopenhauer's heart an ulcer had 
battened during each of the seventy years that 
formed his life. Certainly he has appeared to 
force the note many times, but it is permissible 
to doubt that he prepared a single paragraph in 
which he expressed himself otherwise than as 
he really thought. In his pessimism there is no 
pose and as little affectation ; he wrote only what 
he felt to be true, and he did so with a cheerful 
indifference to approval or dislike ; his position 
was simply that of a notary drawing up provisos 
and conditions in strict accord with the statutes 
of life of which he stood as witness. His mother, 
who had little cause to come forward as an eulo- 
gist, paid him years after their separation 
this one sincere tribute : "With all his vagaries," 
she said, " I have never known my son to tell 
a lie." Other encomiums have, of course, been 
passed upon him, but it is impossible to imagine 

160 The Philosophy of Disenchantment, 

one more glorious than this. Over and above 
his disregard of sham and falsehood, beyond his 
theory of force and the seductions of his ethics, 
Schopenhauer is chiefly remarkable in this : that 
he was the first to detect and logically explain 
that universal nausea which, circulating from one 
end of Europe to the other, presents those symp- 
toms of melancholy and disillusion which, patent 
to every observer, are indubitably born of the in- 
sufficiencies of modern civilization. 

Where, then, it may be asked, for this malady 
of the refined, are the borderlands of happiness 
to be found ? From the standpoint of this teacher 
the answer is that they are discoverable simply 
and solely in an unobtrusive culture of self, in a 
withdrawal from every aggressive influence, and 
above all in a supreme indifference which, culpa- 
ble though alluring, permits the neophyte to de- 
claim with Baudelaire, 

" Resigne-toi, mon cceur, dors ton sommeil de brute." 

The foregoing attempt to winnow some of the 
finer fibres of thought from the six volumes 
which form the complete edition of Schopen- 
hauer's works leaves admittedly much to be de- 
sired. There has been, as the phrase goes, an 
cmbarras des richesses, and in consequence much 
attendant indecision as to the choice to be made 
of different yet equally interesting topics. The 
passages that have been selected and annotated 

The Borderlands of Happiness. 161 

in this and in the preceding chapter have been, 
it may be explained, so selected, because they 
seemed, when arranged with some attempt at 
orderly sequence, to present in the fewest pos- 
sible words the essence of the main idea which 
runs through the entire philosophy, and which in 
the absence of some such arrangement demands 
a concentration more prolonged than is usually 
at the disposal of the ordinary reader. Those 
who are already acquainted with Schopenhauer's 
works, and who may do the present writer the 
honor of reading this exposition, will perhaps ob- 
ject to it on the ground that it does not enter 
sufficiently into the scientific side of the doctrine, 
and through this neglect leaves the reader in the 
dark as to its true value. To this presumable 
objection the writer begs leave to make answer 
that the scientific aspect of the doctrine has been 
so exhaustively treated by others that it has 
seemed to him a waste of time to enter into any 
further consideration of a subject whose true 
value, in spite of the numberless controversies 
and arguments which it continues to create, still 
remains undetermined. Moreover, as will have 
been readily seen, the foregoing pages have in 
no sense been addressed to the scientist, and 
that for the reason that exact information is only 
obtainable from the philosophy itself, or from 
such a complete and, therefore, voluminous anal- 
ysis as would be out of place in a treatise of this 
description. The aim of these chapters is but to 
draw in outline the principal features of this doc- 

162 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

trine, and in so doing to present in the absence 
of complete translations a little of that vigor and 
color which has raised the original to the promi- 
nent position it holds among the foremost works 
of modern thought. No attempt at the polem- 
ical has been made, and this for the reason that 
it is seldom advisable to attack the truth ; the 
notations and criticisms which have been offered 
have been prepared, not with the wish to contro- 
vert, but rather with the hope that they might 
serve to a clearer understanding of the whole 



IT is related of Schopenhauer that he was in 
the habit of putting down a gold piece on the 
table d'hote where he dined, and of taking it up 
again when the dinner was ended. This gold 
piece, he explained to his Boswell, was for the 
waiter the first time that any one of the differ- 
ent officers, who frequented the dining-room, was 
heard discussing a loftier topic than that which 
is circled in wine, woman, and song. As the 
story runs, no occasion ever presented itself in 
which he could in this manner express his pleas- 
ure and contentment ; but had he lived long 
enough to meet Lieutenant Von Hartmann there 
is little doubt that the gold piece would have 
formed an immediate and rightful part of the 
waiter's perquisites. 

This gentleman, who is now no longer an offi- 
cer, but simply a thinker and a man of letters, 
may, in many respects, be regarded as Schopen- 
hauer's direct descendant. To the world at large 
very little concerning him is known, and that lit- 
tle is contained in a modest autobiography which 
appeared a few years ago, and to which his pub- 
fisher has since added a supplement. 

164 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

The meagre details that are furnished therein 
amount, in brief, to this : Eduard von Hartmann 
was born in 1842, in Berlin, in which city he 
passed an uneventful boyhood. The school which 
he attended, and which like most other schools 
forced the pupils to master a quantity of subjects 
whose usefulness may be questioned, brought him 
into an almost open revolt against a system of 
education which, in nine cases out of ten, is noth- 
ing more than a pure waste of time. On leaving 
the gymnasium he decided, for reasons which to 
the average German must seem fastastic, to enter 
the military service at once instead of passing 
the usual semesters at a university. To this bud- 
ding pessimist student life seemed to offer but 
dull variations between commonplaceness and 
vulgarity : to listen or not to listen to sundry 
poorly expressed lectures by day, to engulf at 
night a certain quantity of beer in stone meas- 
ures, and to diversify these occupations in re- 
ceiving slashes on the cheek-bone, or in affording 
amusement to the Hebes of Prussian restaurants, 
was not to him the life that was called ideal. 
Very wisely, then, and in accordance with the 
example which his father had already given, he 
chose in a military career a profession most apt 
to satisfy those inclinations of the scientist and 
of the artist which had already 'begun to exert 
an influence upon him. 

In the year 1858 Herr von Hartmann entered 
the crack artillery regiment of Berlin as volun- 
teer. He then passed three years at the artil- 

The Great Quietus. 165 

lery school, intermingling the scientific studies of 
his profession with artistic and philosophic re- 
searches, and frequenting meanwhile the refined 
society to which his family belonged. About this 
time a rheumatic affection, which had first de- 
clared itself toward the close of his school-days, 
became complicated with a fracture of some of 
the delicate machinery of the knee. The injury 
was both painful and incurable, and in 1864110 
was obliged to resign his position, and thereupon 
left the army with the grade of first lieutenant. 
These latter details are given by way of coun- 
terbalance to the calumnies of his enemies, who, 
in explaining his pessimism by the state of his 
health, which they insinuate was brought about 
by excessive and unusual debauchery, have in 
one way and another managed to vituperate his 
chief work into nine editions. 

On leaving the army he sought a career first 
as painter and then as musician ; it did not take 
him long, however, to discover that his vocation 
was not such as is found in purely artistic pur- 
suits ; " the bankruptcy of all my ambitions," he 
says, " was complete ; there remained to me but 
one thing, and that was thought." It was from 
thought, then, that he demanded a consolation 
and an employment, and turning to metaphysics 
he began at once to plan his " Philosophy of the 
Unconscious." Meanwhile, for his own distrac- 
tion and instruction he had written a few essays, 
of which but one was destined to see the light 
of day. This monograph, " Die dialektische Me- 

1 66 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

thode," was so favorably viewed at Rostock, that 
he received therefrom the degree and title of 
Doctor of Philosophy. 

" The Philosophy of the Unconscious," when 
completed, remained a year in his closet, and 
was only published in 1868, owing to an acci- 
dental meeting with an intelligent publisher. Be- 
fore, as since, the appearance and success of this 
work, which is very generally considered as the 
chief philosophical event of the last two decades, 
Dr. von Hartmann has lived at Berlin, where he 
endeavors in every-day life to prove the practi- 
cal value of evolutionary pessimism, which it is 
his wish to substitute for the indifferentism and 
quietist doctrines of Schopenhauer. 

Personally, Dr. von Hartmann is a very at- 
tractive individual, and his attractiveness is in- 
creased by the fact that there is nothing common- 
place, and at the same time nothing affected 
about him. When I called at his house, I found 
him coiled up in a rug on one of those long chairs 
that are familiar to every ocean traveler. My first 
impression was that I was in the presence of a 
giant ; and as the Berlinese as a race are notori- 
ously tall, I was only surprised at the great size 
of his head, which differed singularly from that 
of the ordinary Prussian. His hair was brushed 
back from his forehead in the manner popularly 
termed a la Russe, but which is more noticeable 
in Vienna than in St. Petersburg ; his eyes, which 
were large and luminous, possessed an expression 
of such indulgence as would put the most timid 

The Great Quietus. 167 

visitor at ease. Owing partly to the arrangement 
of his hair, his forehead seemed to me to be the 
most expansive that I had ever seen ; the lower 
part of his face was hidden in a beard which de- 
scended very nearly to his waist, while as for his 
moustache, it is, I think, the longest in meta- 
physics. In some way or another I had gotten 
to believe that it was part of the professional 
philosopher to be both self-contained and ab- 
sent-minded ; I always pictured him as a class 
as wearing spectacles far down on the nose, as 
being somewhat snuffy, and carelessly tired in 
loose and shabby dressing-gown. I can give no 
reason for this fancy of mine other than that it 
is one of those pictures which we all draw of 
people and places that we have not seen. If I 
remember rightly, Mr. Sala said that he imagined 
Leipzig to be a city of very squat houses, in which 
dwelt little girls in blue skirts, and this until he 
got there and found that it was precisely like any 
other of its kind. 

As a child, and indeed until very lately, I in- 
variably thought of Hungary as having red roads, 
bordered by crimson houses and bluffs of green, 
while all about I saw in fancy splendid horses 
prancing in rich caparisons ; but, as any traveler 
will admit, Hungary, in point of natural effects, 
is as humdrum as Connecticut ; for real color, I 
suppose one must go to Japan, and yet there are 
many who have done so and then returned ut- 
terly disillusioned. Dr. von Hartmann took away 
my illusion about the philosopher ; he had a rug, 

1 68 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

it is true, but no dressing-gown, or at least not 
one which was visible, and there was nothing of 
the careless mien and abstracted attitudes which 
I had expected ; to use a current phrase, he was 
very wide awake, and I may add that to one who 
has lived among Germans he seemed refreshingly 
hospitable and graciously courteous. 

Even in its most pleasant season, Berlin is not 
a pleasant city ; a lounge of but half an hour on 
the Unter den Linden results through uncon- 
scious imitation in an enforced quickstep ; to be- 
gin with, there are too many big houses, and then 
there are too many big soldiers ; and while the 
soldiers present to the stranger an appearance of 
arrogant hostility, the houses, not to be outdone, 
try to look as much like the soldiers as possible, 
and loom up in alert unbending aggressiveness ; 
indeed, I have now in my mind a certain street 
which, when I looked down it, almost got up 
and threatened me. I experienced, therefore, a 
subtle pleasure on discovering that out of the 
whole of rigid Berlin Dr. von Hartmann had 
chosen his residence in the most unsoldierly, and 
for that reason the most attractive part ; and it 
was to this quarter of the city that I went to visit 
the man who, in spite of certain vagaries of 
thought, may be considered as Germany's first 
thinker. When he had disentangled himself from 
the folds of his rug, the impression which had 
been produced by the size of his head and the 
breadth of his shoulders vanished entirely. I 
thought for the moment of the quaint myths of 

The Great Quietus. 169 

the earlier Teutons, of the gnomes and kobolds, 
for Dr. von Hartmann, while massive in head 
and shoulders, is yet short and undersized, and 
the suggestion of the Rhine legends which his 
appearance caused was heightened by the strange 
effect produced by the luxuriance of his beard 
and moustache. 

He had barely spoken, however, before I rec- 
ognized in him not only the man of the world, 
which goes without the telling, but the gentle- 
man, and, in a moment, the thinker. Stendhal 
says somewhere, in speaking of German, that it 
took him " two whole years to forget the beastly 
language." Stendhal was what is termed nowa- 
days an impressionist, and his expression may 
perhaps on that account be excused ; in any 
event German is decidedly an unpleasant tongue ; 
it is very rich, rich even to exuberance, and when 
it is well handled it is to the initiate delightful 
in many respects ; but to the Latin, and the aver- 
age Anglo-Saxon, it is terribly tortuous, and most 
easy to lose one's way in. I had hoped, there- 
fore, that I might be allowed to talk with Dr. 
von Hartmann in some more flowing form of 
speech, but as he preferred German, it was not, 
of course, my place to rebel, and I soon found 
that I had nothing to regret. I have had in the 
Fatherland the privilege of hearing some very ac- 
complished actors, and I have also sat beneath 
some very eloquent speakers, but the amplitude 
and resources of the German language were first 
made clear to me by this gentleman. When he 

170 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

spoke, I may say, without exaggeration, that his 
words seemed less like figures of speech than 
evocations of pictures. I had puzzled for some 
time over a particular point in his teaching, and 
when I told him of my difficulty he drew down 
before me a series of illustrations and examples, 
which were as well defined as though they formed 
a panorama on the wall ; and therewithal was 
such a fluency of verb, such a precision of adjec- 
tive, and such a nicety of accent, that for the first 
and only time I loved the German language. 

Dr. von Hartmann is in no sense a misan- 
thrope. He leads a quiet and easy life, demon- 
strating by his own example that pessimism is 
not a gospel of desolation. Personally, he has 
had many grave misfortunes ; he has suffered in 
health, in name, and in purse, he has lost many 
who were most dear to him, but his laugh is as 
prompt and as frank as a boy's. At the head of 
his table sits a gracious and charming woman, his 
children are rich in strength and spirits, and an 
observer lately said of him and his family, " If 
you wish to see happy and contented faces, go 
call on the Hartmanns." 

Beyond writing a dozen or more monographs, 
and dissertations on philosophical subjects, Dr. 
von Hartmann has also charmed the public with 
two elaborate and well-conceived poems. His 
chief claim to recognition, however, and the one 
which has placed him at the head of contempo- 
rary metaphysics, is the work already mentioned, 
in which, somewhat after the manner of his pre- 

The Great Quietus. 171 

decessor, and yet with a diffuseness of argument 
which had no part in Schopenhauer's system, he 
reduces the motor forces of the universe to a dual 
principle which he terms the Unbewussten, or the 

It is unnecessary to enter into any minute ex- 
amination of this theory of his, in which, with a 
juggle of fancies and facts, he tries to reconcile 
the teaching of Hegel with that of Schopenhauer, 
for, however it may be considered, it is in any 
event but loosely connected with that part of his 
philosophy which treats of the matter in hand. 

It will be sufficient for the understanding of 
what is to follow, to note simply that after exam- 
ining the forms of phenomenal existence, mat- 
ter, life organic and inorganic, humanity, and so 
on, he presents the Unconscious as the One-in- 
all, the Universal soul, from which, through deter- 
mined laws, the multiplicity of individuals and 
characters is derived. This one-in-all is sover- 
eignly wise, and the world is admirable in every 
respect ; but while he argues in this way that the 
world is the best one possible, he has no difficulty 
in showing that life itself is irreclaimably misera- 

The originality of his system consists in a the- 
ory of optimistic evolution as counterbalanced by 
a pessimistic analysis of life, and also in the man- 
ner in which, with a glut of curious argument, he 
concludes that as the world's progressus does not 
tend to either universal or even individual hap- 
piness, the great aim of science should be to 

172 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

emancipate man from the love of life, and in this 
wise lead the world back to chaos. 

The main idea runs somewhat as follows. The 
interest of the Unconscious is opposed to our 
own ; it would be to our advantage not to live, it 
is to the advantage of the Unconscious that we 
should do so, and that others should be brought 
into existence through us. The Unconscious, 
therefore, in the furtherment of its aims, has sur- 
rounded man with such illusions as are capable 
of deluding him into the belief that life is a 
pleasant thing, well worth the living. The in- 
stincts that are within us are but the different 
forms beneath which this unreasoning desire to 
live is at work, and with which the Unconscious 
inspires man and moulds him to its profit. Hence 
the energy so foolishly expended for the protec- 
tion of an existence which is but the right to 
suffer, hence the erroneous idea which is formed 
of the pain and pleasure derivable from life, and 
hence the modification of past disenchantments 
through the influence of fresh and newer hopes. 

With regard to happiness, there are, accord- 
ing to Hartmann, three periods or forms of 
illusion, from all of which the world must be 
thoroughly freed before the great aim of science 
can be attained. The first of these illusions con- 
sists in the idea that under certain circumstances 
happiness is now obtainable on earth ; the sec- 
ond, in the belief that happiness is realizable in 
a future state ; and the third, in the opinion that 
happiness will be discovered in the march of 
progress through the coming centuries. 

The Great Quietus. 173 

Of these three ideas, the first has for some 
time past been recognized by many as a chimera. 
In certain quarters the decomposition of the sec- 
ond has already begun, but the belief in the real- 
ity of the third is unquestionably the paramount 
conviction of the present century. When each 
of these three illusions has been utterly routed 
and universally done away with, then, Hartmann 
considers, the world will be ripe for its great qui- 

The first of these three forms is, of course, the 
most tenacious ; indeed, it is an incontestible 
fact that man, even when miserable, clings to 
life, and loves it not only when there is some 
vague hope of a brighter future, but even under 
its most distressing conditions. It is, therefore, 
against this illusion that pessimism, to be suc- 
cessful, must rain the hardest blows. 

The views of many eminent writers on this 
subject have already been expressed in the course 
of these pages, but their views, while in a meas- 
ure important, should nevertheless be received 
with a certain amount of caution, for they ema- 
nate from superior minds, in which melancholy 
as the attribute of genius constantly presides. 

Let us imagine, then, with Hartmann, a man 
who is not a genius, but simply a man of ordinary 
culture, enjoying the advantages of an enviable 
position ; a man who is neither wearied by pleas- 
ure nor oppressed by exceptional misfortunes ; in 
brief, a man capable of comparing the advantages 
which he enjoys with the disadvantages of infe- 

174 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

rior members of society ; let us suppose that 
Death comes to this man and speaks somewhat 
as follows : " Your hour is at hand ; it remains 
with you, however, to live at once a new life, 
with the past entirely effaced, or to accept the 
grave as it is." 

There can be little doubt, if this hypothetical 
individual has not lived carelessly and thought- 
lessly, and does not permit his judgment to be 
biased by the desire for life at any price, that he 
would choose death in preference to another ex- 
istence, in which he would be assured of none of 
the favorable conditions which he had hitherto 
enjoyed. He will recommence his own life, per- 
haps, but no other of an inferior grade. 

This choice, however, would be that of an in- 
telligent man, and might be objected to on a 
ground not dissimilar to the one already advanced 
against the judgments of genius. But let us fol- 
low Hartmann still further, and in descending 
the spiral of humanity put the same question to 
every one we meet ; let us take, for instance, a 
woodcutter, a Hottentot, or an orang-outang, and 
ask of each which he prefers, death, or a new ex- 
istence in the body of a hippopotamus or a flea. 
Each will answer, " death," but none of them will 
hesitate between their own lives and death ; and 
if a like question be put to the hippopotamus 
and the flea, their answers will be precisely simi- 

The difference in the comparative judgment 
that each would bring to bear on his own life, 

The Great Quietus. 175 

and on that of life in an inferior degree, results 
evidently from the fact that on being questioned 
each enters imaginatively into the existence of 
the lower creation, and at once judges its condi- 
tion to be insupportable. The difference be- 
tween the opinion which the flea holds on the 
value of its own existence and our own private 
judgment on this insect is derived simply from the 
fact that the flea has a quantity of absurd illu- 
sions which we do not share, and these illusions 
cause it such an excess of imaginary happiness 
that in consequence it prefers its own life to 
death. In this the flea is not wrong ; on the 
contrary, it is quite right, for the value of an ex- 
istence can only be measured in accordance with 
its natural limitations. In this sense illusion is 
as serviceable as truth. 

From this introduction it follows quite of itself 
that each and every creature is capable of weigh- 
ing the discomforts of an existence inferior to 
that in which it dwells, and yet is unable to 
rightly jlidge its own. Each can discern the il- 
lusions with which its inferior is surrounded, but 
is always defenseless against its own, save under 
exceptional circumstances, as in the case of gen- 
ius. Hartmann concludes, therefore, very logi- 
cally that an intelligence which is capable of 
embracing every form of life would condemn ex- 
istence in its totality in the same manner that an 
intelligence relatively restricted condemns it in 

In drawing up the balance-sheet of life, Hart- 

176 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

mann differs from Schopenhauer on the ques- 
tion of the purely negaitve character of pleasure. 
That pleasure is at times a negative condition, as 
in the cessation of pain, he willingly admits, but 
from his standpoint it is something else besides ; 
it may be either positive, although derived from 
an illusion, as in love, or real, as in art and sci- 
ence. Nevertheless, the predominance of pain 
over pleasure seems to be firmly established, and 
his examination of this subject is not without a 
repellant interest. 

The four greatest blessings of life are admit- 
tedly health, youth, liberty, and well-being ; but 
from their nature, Hartmann points out, these 
things are incapable of raising man out of indif- 
ference into pleasure save only as they may help 
to diminish an anterior pain, or guard him from a 
possible discomfort. Take the case of health, for 
instance ; no man thinks of his nerves until they 
are affected, nor yet of his eyes until they ache ; 
indeed, it may fairly be said that a man who is 
in perfect condition only knows that he has a 
body because he sees and touches it. Liberty 
may be regarded in much the same manner : it 
is unnoticed until it is in some way interfered 
with ; while youth, which is the most propitious 
condition of life, is in itself but capability and 
possibility, and not possession, nor yet delight. 

Well-being, the certainty of shelter from need 
and privation, Hartmann very rightly considers 
merely as the sine qua non of life in its baldest 
aspect, for, he argues, were it otherwise, the sim- 

The Great Quietus. 177 

pie fact of living would satisfy and content us ; 
but we all know that an assured existence is a 
torment if nothing fills the gap. 

In the menagerie of beasts that torture life 
there is one, Baudelaire says in his easy metre, 
that is more hideous than all the rest ; it is : 

..." 1'ennui ! L'ceil charge d'un pleur involontaire 

II reve d'echafauds en fumant son houka 

Tu le connais, lecteur, ce monstre delicat, 

Hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frere ! " 

This insupportable companion of inaction is 
usually banished by work ; but then, to him who 
is obliged to labor, is not work often distasteful, 
and even a species of misfortune ? Indeed, there 
are few, if any, who ever work save under com- 
pulsion ; and whether the compulsion is caused 
by the attracting force of fame, the desire to es- 
cape from want, or comes simply as a promise of 
relief from boredom, the incentive and necessity 
are one and the same. It is true that man when 
at work is consoled by the thought of rest, but 
then work and rest merely serve to change his 
position, and they do so very much in the same 
manner as that uneasiness which forces the in- 
valid to turn in bed, and then to turn back again, 
when it has shown him that the second position 
is no better than the first. 

The great blessings of life, therefore, reduce 
themselves, in brief, to this : they represent but 
that affranchisement from pain which is equiva- 
lent to a state of pure indifference ; but as no 
one reaches this condition save momentarily and 


178 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

by accident, it seems to follow that life has less 
charm than non-existence, which represents indif- 
ference in its most absolute and unquestioned 

This state of beatitude is yet to be acquired ; 
meanwhile, as Schiller says, so long as philoso- 
phy does not govern the world, hunger and love 
will suffice to keep it in motion. After the four 
causes of contentment, Hartmann's views on the 
two incentives to activity remain to be examined. 

In regard to the first, it may be said without 
extravagance that the sufferings of hunger rule 
the greater portion of the 1300 millions of the 
earth's inhabitants. Europe not long since aver- 
aged a famine every seven years ; now, the facili- 
ties of communication have replaced famine with 
an increased valuation of food. Death is the 
rarest and the least important evil that hunger 
occasions ; what is most to be regarded is the 
physical and intellectual impoverishment, the 
mortality among children, and the particular mal- 
adies which it engenders. 

According to Hartmann, the analysis of hun- 
ger shows that in satisfying its demands the in- 
dividual does not raise his sensibility above a 
state of pure indifference. He may, it is true, 
under favorable circumstances, cause a certain 
pleasure to predominate over suffering by means 
of taste and digestion ; but in the animal king- 
dom, as in humanity, taken as a whole, the tor- 
tures caused by hunger are greatly in excess of 
any pleasures that may attach to it. In fact, 

The Great Quietus. 179 

from Hartmann's standpoint, the necessity of 
eating is in itself a misfortune. 

After all that has been said through centuries 
of literature on the subject of love, it is certainly 
difficult to be original , but Hartmann has at 
least the merit of presenting it in a more ab- 
stract light, and from a less alluring standpoint 
than any other writer who has handled the sub- 
ject. For love, according to his views, is either 
contrary to the laws of society, and as such envi- 
roned by perils and pains, vice and degradation, 
or it is perfectly legal, and, in that case, quickly 
extinguished. " In the majority of cases," he 
says, " insurmountable obstacles arise between 
the two lovers and cause a consequent and im- 
mense despair, while in the rarer and more for- 
tunate instances the expected happiness turns 
out to be purely illusory." 

It is, however, as hard to love as it is not to 
love ; but he (Hartmann) says, " Who once rec- 
ognizes that the happiness which it offers is but 
a chimera, and that its pains are greater than its 
pleasures, will, while unable perhaps to escape 
entirely from its allurements, be none the less able 
to judge it differently from the novice, and there- 
fore capable of diminishing some of its suffering, 
and some of the disproportion between its joys 
and its sorrows." According to this savage mor- 
alist, then, love is either an illusory and quickly 
vanishing happiness, or an actual suffering, and 
resembles hunger precisely in that it is in itself 
and to the individual a veritable curse. 

I So The PJiilosopJiy of Disenchantment. 

Hartmann judges marriage with an epigram 
borrowed from Lessing : " There is, at most, but 
one disagreeable woman in the world ; it is only 
a pity that every man gets her for himself." In 
very much the same manner are the ties of fam- 
ily and friendship weighed and judged. Scat- 
tered here and there is some reflection of Scho- 
penhauer's wit and wisdom, but generally the 
discussion is defective, and lacks the grace of 
style and purity of diction which characterized 
the latter writer. The sentiments of honor, pub- 
lic esteem, ambition, and glory depend, he says, 
on the opinion of others, and are therefore merely 
toys of the imagination, " for my joys and trou- 
bles exist in my mind, and not in the minds of 
other people. Their opinion concerning me has 
merely a conventional value, and not one which 
is effective for me." 

But to him who journeys through the desert 
called life, there is still one suave and green 
oasis. Hartmann is not utterly relentless, and 
though perhaps on all other subjects he may 
seem skeptical as a ragpicker, he has yet a word 
or two of cheer for art and science. These 
pleasant lands, however, are only traversable by 
rare and privileged natures, for if from the pleas- 
ure which attaches to music, painting, poetry, 
philosophy, and science, a deduction be made of 
all that which is but sham, dilettanteism, and van- 
ity, the more considerable part of this supreme 
resource will be found to have disappeared. 
That which remains over is the compensation 

The Great Quietus. 181 

which nature preserves as recompense to the ex- 
treme sensibility of the artist and thinker, to 
whom the miseries of life are far more poignant 
than to other men, whose sensibilities are duller 
and less impressionable. Now, if the ubiquity 
of suffering is admitted, the temperament of this 
latter class is, in the long run, undoubtedly prefer- 
able to the more refined organization of the artist ; 
for, after all, a state of comparative insensibility 
is evidently not too dearly bought, when the price 
is merely the lack of a delight, whose absence is 
not a privation, and which, to those able to ap- 
preciate it, is as rare as it is limited in duration. 
Moreover, even the real and ineffaceable pleas- 
ures which the thinker and artist enjoy are ob- 
tainable only after much trouble and discomfort. 

Genius does not fall from the skies ready- 
made and complete in armor and equipment ; 
the study which is to develop it is a task pain- 
ful and tiresome, whose pleasures are rare, and, 
generally speaking, but those of anticipation and 
vanquished obstacles. Each art has its me- 
chanical side, which demands a long apprentice- 
ship ; and even then, after the preliminary prepa- 
ration, the only pleasant moments are those of 
conception, which, in turn, are directly succeeded 
by the long hours of technical execution. 

In the case of the amateur, the pleasure of list- 
ening, to good music, of seeing a fine actor, or 
of looking at works of art, is undoubtedly the 
one that causes the least amount of inconven- 
ience, and yet Hartmann is not to be blamed for 

1 82 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

noting that even this pleasure is seldom unal- 
loyed. In the first place, there is the bother of 
going to the picture-gallery ; then there is the 
bad air and hubbub in the theatre; after this 
come the dangers of catching cold, of being run 
into, or annoyed in a dozen different ways, and 
especially the fatigue of watching and listening. 

In the case of the artist there are the inevita- 
ble deceptions ; the struggles with envy, the in- 
difference and disdain of the public. Chamfort 
was wont to exclaim, " The public indeed ! how 
many idiots does it take to make a public ? " 
The public, nevertheless, has the ability to make 
itself very disagreeable, and not every one courts 
its smile with success. If, in addition to all 
these things, the nervous organization of the 
thinker, more vibrant a thousandfold than that 
of other men, is taken into consideration, it 
will be seen that Hartmann is not wrong in 
stating that the pleasures to which this class is 
privileged are expiated by a greater sensibility 
to pain. 

But while art is not without its disadvantages, 
Hartmann declares that life still holds one solace 
that is supreme and unalloyed. " Unconscious 
sleep," he says, " is relatively the happiest condi- 
tion, for it is the only one from which pain is 
completely banished. With dreams, however, 
all the miseries of life return; and happiness, 
when it then appears, does so only in the vague 
form of an agreeable sensation, such as that of 
being freed from the body, or flying through the 

The Great Quietus. 183 

air. The pleasures of art and science, the only 
ones which could reconcile a sensible man to life, 
are intangible herein, while suffering, on the 
other hand, appears in its most positive form." 

Among the different factors which are gen- 
erally supposed to be more or less productive of 
happiness, wealth or its symbol, money, usually 
represents the enchanted wand that opens the 
gate to every joy of life. It is true that we have 
seen that all these joys were illusions, and that 
their pursuit was more painful than pleasing, but 
Hartmann here makes an exception in favor of 
the delights which art and science procure, and 
also, like a true Berlinois, of those which the 
table affords. 

"Wealth," he says, "makes me lord and mas- 
ter. With it I can purchase the pleasures of the 
table, and even those of love." It is unnecessary 
to contend with him on this point : our tastes all 
differ ; still there are few, it is to be imagined, 
who will envy him in an affection which is pur- 
chasable with coin of the realm. Moreover, 
wealth does not make one lord and master; there 
is a certain charm in original and brilliant con- 
versation which neither Hartmann nor any one 
else could buy, even though all the wealth of 
Ormus and the Ind stood to his credit on the 
ledgers of the Landesbank. Wealth, however, 
he hastens to explain, should be valued not for 
the commodities which it can procure, but rather 
because we are enabled therewith to shield our- 
selves from inconveniences which would other- 

184 The PhilosopJiy of Disenchantment. 

wise disturb that zero of the sensibility which 
the pessimist holds to be the nearest approach to 
reality in happiness. 

It is said that the drowning man will clutch at 
a straw, and it is possible that the reader who 
has seen his illusions dispersed and slaughtered 
one by one has perhaps deluded himself with 
the fancy that hope at least might yet survive ; 
if he has done so, he may be sure that he has 
reckoned without his host. Hartmann guillo- 
tines the blue goddess in the most off-hand man- 
ner ; she is the last on the list, and he does the 
job with a hand which is, so to speak, well in. 
Of course hope is a great delight ; who thinks of 
denying it? Certainly not the headsman, who 
even drops a sort of half tear over her mangled 
wings. But if we come to look over the warrant 
which has legalized the execution, the question 
naturally arises who and what is hope ? It is of 
little use to ask the poets, for they are all astray ; 
what they see in hope is a fair sky girt with lau- 
rels, in other words, the rape of happiness; but 
has it not been repeated even to satiety that 
happiness does not exist, that pain outbalances 
pleasure ? What is hope, then, but an illusion ? 
and an illusion, too, that plays all manner of 
tricks with us, and amuses itself at our expense ; 
one, in fact, which makes use of us until our task 
is accomplished, and we understand that all 
things are different from that which we desired. 
" He, then," Hartmann says, " who is once con- 
vinced that hope is as vain and illusory as its ob- 

The Great Quietus. 185 

ject will see its influence gradually wane beneath 
the power of the understanding, and the one 
thing to which he will then look forward will be, 
not the greatest amount of happiness, but the 
easiest burden of pain." 

In all that has gone before, Hartmann has en- 
deavored to show that suffering increases with 
the development of the intellect, or rather, that 
happiness exists only in the mineral kingdom, 
which represents that zero of the senses above 
which man struggles in vain. It has been seen 
that they whose nervous systems are most im- 
pressionable have a larger share of suffering than 
their less sensitive brethren ; furthermore, expe- 
rience teaches that the lower classes are more 
contented than the cultivated and the rich, for 
while they are more exposed to want, yet they are 
thicker-skinned and more obtuse. In descend- 
ing the scale of life, therefore, it is easy to show 
that such weight of pain as burdens animal ex- 
istence is less than that which man supports. 
The horse, whose sensibility is most delicate, 
leads a more painful existence than the swine, or 
even the fish, whose happiness at high tide is 
proverbial. The life of the fish is happier than 
that of the horse, the oyster is happier than the 
fish, the life of the plant is happier yet, and so 
on down to the last degrees of organic life, where 
consciousness expires and suffering ends. 

The balance sheet of human pleasure and pain 
may therefore be summed up somewhat as fol- 
lows : in the first column stand those conditions 

1 86 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

which correspond to a state of pure indifference, 
and merely represent the absence of certain suf- 
ferings ; these are health, youth, liberty, and well- 
being ; in the second are those which stand as il- 
lusory incentives, such as the desire for wealth, 
power, esteem, and general regard ; in the third 
are those which, as a rule, cause more pain than 
pleasure, such as hunger and love ; in the fourth 
are those which rest on illusions, such as hope, 
etc. ; in the fifth are those which, recognized as 
misfortunes, are only accepted to escape still 
greater ones : these are work and marriage ; in 
the sixth are those which afford more pleasure 
than pain, but whose joys must be paid for by 
suffering, and in any event can be shared but by 
the few : this is the column of art and science. 

Let a line be drawn and the columns added 
up, the sum total amounts to the inevitable con- 
clusion that pain is greatly in excess of pleas- 
ure; and this not alone in the average, but in 
the particular existence of each individual, and 
even in the case of him who seems exceptionally 
favored. Hartmann has taken great care to 
point out that experience demonstrates the van- 
ity of each of the opulent aspirations of youth, 
and that on the subject of individual happi- 
ness intelligent old age preserves but few illu- 

Such is the schedule of pleasure and pain 
which each one is free to verify by his own expe- 
rience, or, better still, to disregard altogether ; 
for, from what has gone before, it is easy to see 

The Great Quietus. 187 

that man is most happy when he is the uncon- 
scious dupe of his own illusions. In Koheleth it 
is written : " To add to knowledge is to add to 
pain." He, then, whose judgment is obscured 
by illusions is less sensible to the undeniable 
miseries of life ; he is always prepared to wel- 
come hope, and each deception is forgotten in 
the expectation of better things. Mr. Micawber, 
whose acquaintance we have all made, is not 
alone a type, but a lesson, the moral of which is 
sometimes overlooked. 

In brief, Hartmann's teaching resolves itself 
into the doctrine that the idea that happiness 
is obtainable in this life is the first and fore- 
most of illusions. This conclusion, in spite of 
certain eccentricities of statement, is none the 
less one which will be found singularly difficult 
to refute. But every question has two different 
sides, and this one is no exception. The devil, 
whom Schopenhauer painted in a good grim gray, 
Hartmann has daubed all over with a depth of 
black of which he is certainly undeserving ; and 
not only that, but he has taken an evident pleas- 
ure in so doing. It is not, therefore, unfair to 
use his own weapon, and tell him that he, too, is 
the dupe of an illusion, or, to borrow a simile 
from the prince of wits, to insist that while he 
may not carry any unnecessary quantity of motes 
in his eye, some dust has assuredly settled on 
his monocle. 

As is the case with others who have treated the 
subject, Hartmann confounds the value of the 

1 88 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

existence of the unit with the worth of life in the 
aggregate. Taken as a whole, it is undeniably 
and without doubt unfortunate, but that does 
not prevent many people from being superla- 
tively, and, to the pessimist, even insultingly 
happy ; and though the joy of a lifetime be cir- 
cumscribed in a single second, yet it is not rash 
to say that that second of joy may be so vividly 
intense as to compensate its recipient for all mis- 
eries past and to come. It may be noted, fur- 
ther, that the balance-sheet which has just been 
reviewed is simply a resultant of Hartmann's in- 
dividual opinion. Sometimes, it is true, he deals 
with unquestioned facts, and sometimes with un- 
answerable figures; but it has been wittily said 
that nothing is so fallacious as facts except fig- 
ures ; and certain of these figures and facts, 
which seem to bear out his statements, are found 
at times to be merely assertions, and exaggerated 
at that. 

The second great illusion from which Hart- 
mann would deliver us is the belief that happi- 
ness is realizable in a future life. As has been 
seen, he has already contended that earthly fe- 
licity is unobtainable, and his arguments against 
a higher state are, in a word, that unless the con- 
dition which follows life is compared to the an- 
terior state of being, chaos, the successor of life, 
can bring to man neither happiness nor unhappi- 
ness ; but as the belief in the regeneration of 
the body is no longer tenable, it follows that this 
contrast cannot be appreciated by the non-exist- 

The Great Quietus. 189 

ent, who are necessarily without thought or con- 

This doctrine, which is very nearly akin to 
Buddhism, has, of course, but little in common 
with Christianity. Christianity does not, it is 
true, recognize in us any fee simple to happiness, 
but it recommends the renunciation of such as 
may be held, that the value of the transcendent 
felicity which it promises may be heightened to a 
still greater extent. It was this regenerating 
hope, this association of a disdain for life to a 
promise of eternal well-being, that saved antiq- 
uity from the despair and distaste for life in 
which it was being slowly consumed. But, ac- 
cording to the tendency of modern thought, 
every effort to demonstrate the reality of ultra- 
mundane happiness only results in a more or less 
disguised and fantastic representation of Nir- 
vana, while the idea which each forms of such a 
condition varies naturally with the degree of his 
culture. It is certainly not at all astonishing that 
all those who are more or less attached to the 
Christian conception of life should, as Hartmann 
says, indignantly repulse any and every sugges- 
tion of this description. For such ideas to be ac- 
cepted, a long and worldly civilizing preparation 
is needed. 

A period of this nature is found in his analysis 
of the third and last great illusion, which holds 
that happiness will be realizable in the progress- 
ing evolution of the world. The chapter in which 
this subject is treated is one of the most mas- 

190 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

terly in his entire work, and as such is well de- 
serving of careful examination. 

First, it may be explained that to the student 
of modern science the history of the world is 
that of a continuous and immense development. 
The union of photometry and spectral analysis 
enables him to follow the evolution of other plan- 
ets, while chemistry and mineralogy teach him 
something of the earth's own story before it 
cooled its outer crust. Biology discloses the 
evolution of the vegetable and animal kingdom ; 
archaeology, with some assistance from other 
sources, throws an intelligible light over the pre- 
historic development of man, while history brings 
with it the reverberation of the ordered march 
of civilization, and points at the same time to 
larger and grander perspectives. It is not hard, 
then, to be convinced of the reality of progress ; 
the difficulty lies in the inability to present it 
to one's self in a thoroughly unselfish manner. 
From an egoist point of view, man and by 
man is meant he who has succeeded in divest- 
ing himself of the two illusions just considered 
would condemn life not only as a useless pos- 
session, but as an affliction. He has, however, 
Hartmann tells him, a role to fill under the prov- 
idential direction of the Unconscious, which, in 
conformity with the plan of absolute wisdom, 
draws the world on to a beneficent end, and this 
role exacts that he shall take interest in, and joy- 
ously sacrifice himself to life. If he does other- 
wise, his loss prevents no suffering to society j 

The Great Quietus. 191 

on the contrary, it augments the general discom- 
fort by the length of time which is needed to re- 
place a useful member. Man may not, then, as 
Schopenhauer recommended, assist as a passive 
spectator of life ; on the contrary, he must cease- 
lessly act, work, and produce, and associate him- 
self without regret in the economic and intellec- 
tual development of society ; or, in other words, 
he must lend his aid to the attainment of the su- 
preme goal of the evolution of the universe, for 
that there is a goal it is as impossible to doubt 
as it is unreasonable to suppose that the world's 
one end and aim is to turn on its orbit and enjoy 
the varied spectacle of pain. And yet, what is 
this goal to which all nature tends ? According 
to a theory which nowadays is very frequently 
expressed, it is the attainment of universal hap- 
piness through gradual advancement and prog- 

But, whatever progress humanity may realize, 
it will never be able, Hartmann affirms, to do 
away with, nor yet diminish those most painful 
of evils, illness, old age, poverty, and discontent. 
So, no matter to how great an extent remedies 
may be multiplied, disorders, and especially those 
which are light but chronic, will spread with a 
progression far more rapid than the knowledge of 
therapeutics. The gayety of youth, moreover, 
will never be but the privilege of a fraction of 
mankind, while the greater part will continue to 
be devoured by the melancholy of old age. The 
poverty of the masses, too, as the world ad- 

192 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

vances, becomes more and more formidable, for 
all the while the masses are gaining a clearer per- 
ception of their misery. The happiest races, it 
has been said over and over again, are those 
which live nearest to nature, as do the savage 
tribes ; and after them come necessarily the civ- 
ilized nations, which are the least cultivated. 
Historically speaking, therefore, the progress of 
civilization corresponds with the spread of gen- 
eral nausea. 

May it not be, then, as Kant maintained, that 
the practice of universal morality is the great aim 
of evolution ? Hartmann considers the question 
at great length, and decides in the negative ; for, 
were it such, it would necessarily expand with 
time, gain ground, so to speak, and take a firm 
hold on the different classes of society. These 
feats, of course, it has not performed, for immo- 
rality in descending the centuries has changed 
only in form. Indeed, putting aside the fluctua- 
tions of the character of every race, it will be 
found that everywhere the same connection is 
maintained between egotism and sympathy. If 
one is shocked at the cruelty and brutality of 
former days, it should nevertheless be remem- 
bered that uprightness, sincerity, and justice 
were the characteristics of earlier nations. Who 
shall say, however, that to-day we do not live in 
a reign of falsehood, perfidy, and the coarsest 
crimes ; and that were it not for the assured exe- 
cution of the repressive enactments of the state 
and society, we should see the naked brutality of 

The Great Quietus. 193 

the barbarians surge up again among us ? For 
that matter, it may be noted that at times it does 
reappear in all its human bestiality, and invaria- 
bly so the moment that law and order are in any 
way weakened or destroyed. What happened in 
the draft riots in New York, and in Paris under 
the Commune ? 

Since morality cannot be the great aim of evo- 
lution, perhaps it may be art and science ; but 
the further back one looks, the more does sci- 
entific progress appear to be the exclusive work 
of certain rare and gifted minds, while the nearer 
one approaches the present epoch, the more col- 
lective does the work become. Hartmann points 
out that the first thinkers were not unlike the 
magicians who made a monument rise out of 
nothing, whereas the laborers who work at the 
intellectual edifice of the present day are but 
corporations of intelligent builders who each, ac- 
cording to their strength, aid in the construction 
of a gigantic tower. " The work of science here- 
after will," he says, " be broader and less pro- 
found ; it will become exclusively inductive, and 
hence the demand for genius will grow gradually 
less. Similarity of dress has already blended the 
different ranks of society ; meanwhile we are ad- 
vancing to an analogous leveling of the intelli- 
gence, which will result in a common but solid 
mediocrity. The delight in scientific production 
will gradually wane, and the world will end in 
knowing only the pleasures of passive under- 
standing. But the pleasure of knowledge is taste- 

194 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

less when truth is presented like a cake already 
prepared : to be enjoyed it must cost an effort 
and a struggle." 

Art will be handicapped in much the same 
manner. It is no longer now what it was for the 
youth of humanity, a god august dispensing hap- 
piness with open hands ; it is simply a matter of 
amusement, a remedy for ennui, and a distraction 
from the fatigues of the day. Hence the increase 
of dilettantism and the neglect of serious study. 
The future of art is to Hartmann self-evident. 
" Age has no ideal, or rather, it has lost what it 
had, and art is condemned in the increasing 
years of humanity to hold the same position as 
the nightly ballets and farces now do to the bank- 
ers and brokers of large cities." 

This consistent treatment of the subject Hart- 
mann cleverly founds on the analogy of the dif- 
ferent ages of the life of the individual with the 
development of humanity. It is, of course, 
merely a series of affirmations, but not for that 
reason necessarily untrue. The great thinkers 
have disappeared, as have also the great artists ; 
and they have done so, Hartrjnann would say, be- 
cause we no longer need them. Indeed, there 
can be little doubt that could the Greeks come 
back, they would tell us our art was barbarous ; 
even to the casual observer it has retrograded, 
nor is it alone in painting and sculpture that 
symptoms of decadence are noticeable ; if we 
look at the tendencies in literature, nothing very 
commendable is to be found, save in isolated in- 

The Great Quietus. 195 

stances, where the technicalities of style have 
been raised very near to perfection ; but, apart 
from a few purists who can in no sense be called 
popular, the majority of the manufacturers of fic- 
tion have nothing to offer but froth and rubbish. 

The modern stage, too, brings evidence that a 
palpitant tableau is more appreciated than a pol- 
ished comedy, and the concert-hall tells a story 
which is not dissimilar. Music, which with Mo- 
zart changed its sex, has been turned into a har- 
lot by Offenbach and his successors ; and there 
are but few nowadays who would hesitate between 
Don Juan and the last inanity of Strauss. One 
composer, however, of incontestable genius, has 
been slowly fighting his way into the hearts of 
cultivated people, and, curiously enough, has 
sought to translate with an orchestra some part 
of the philosophy of pessimism. Schopenhauer, 
it is said, shook his head at Wagner, and would 
have none of him ; yet if Schopenhauer was ever 
wrong, he was certainly wrong in that ; for Wag- 
ner has expressed, as no one will do again, the 
flooding rush of Will, and the unspiritual but 
harmonious voice of Nature. 

But whatever may become of art, science is 
not to be dismissed so abruptly. Practically 
considered, the political, social, and industrial 
advance of the world depends entirely on its 
progress ; and yet, from Hartmann's standpoint, 
all that has been accomplished hitherto, by the 
aid of manufactories, steamships, railways and 
telegraphs, has merely served to lessen the em- 

196 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

barrassments which compressed the activity of 
man ; and the sole advantage which society has 
reaped by their aid is that the force heretofore 
expended in actual labor is now free for the play 
of the intellect, and serves to hasten the evolu- 
tion of the world. This result, Hartmann re- 
marks, while of importance to general progress, 
in no wise affects the happiness of the individ- 

This last statement of his will perhaps be bet- 
ter understood if it be taken into consideration 
that the increased production of food which will 
necessarily follow on a more intelligent culture 
of the soil will greatly augment the population. 
An increase of population will multiply the num- 
ber of those who are always on the verge of star- 
vation, of which there are already millions. But 
an advance of this kind, while a step backward 
one way, must yet be a step forward in another ; 
for the wealth which it will bring in its train will 
necessarily aid in diminishing suffering. 

Politically considered, the outlook does not 
seem to be much more assured. An ideal gov- 
ernment can do nothing more than permit man 
to live without fear of unjust aggressions, and 
enable him to prepare the ground on which he 
may construct, if he can, the edifice of his own 
happiness. Socially, the result will be about the 
same : through solidarity, association, and other 
means, men will learn how to make the struggle 
of the individual with want less severe ; yet, in all 
this, his burdens will be merely lightened, and 
positive happiness will remain unobtained. 

The Great Quietus. 197 

Such are the outlines of Hartmann's concep- 
tion of what future progress will amount to. If 
the ideal is realized, man will be gradually raised 
out of the misery in which he is plunged, and lit- 
tle by little approach a state of indifference in 
every sphere of his activity. But it should be re- 
membered that the ideal is ever intangible ; man 
may approach, but he can never reach it, and 
consequently will remain always in a state of suf- 

In this manner, but with a profusion of argu- 
ment, which, if not always convincing, is yet 
highly instructive, Hartmann has shown in brief 
that the people that dwell nearest to nature are 
happier than the civilized nations, that the poor 
are more contented than the rich, the poor in 
spirit more blessed than the intelligent, and that 
in general that man is the happiest whose sensi- 
bilities are the most obtuse, because pleasure is 
then less dominated by pain, and illusions are 
more steadfast and complete ; moreover, that the 
progress of humanity develops not only wealth 
and its needs, and consequently discontent, but 
also the aptitudes and culture of the intellect, 
which in turn awaken man to the consciousness 
of the misery of life, and in so doing heighten 
the sentiment of general misfortune. 

The dream that another golden age is to visit 
the earth is, therefore, puerile in the extreme. 
As the wayfarer's burden grows heavier with the 
miles, so do humanity's suffering and the con- 
sciousness of its misery continually increase. 

198 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

The child lives in the moment, the adolescent 
dreams of a transcendent ideal ; man aspires to 
glory, then to wealth or practical wisdom ; lastly, 
old age, recognizing the vanity of all things, 
holds but to peace, and bends a tired head to 
rest. "And so it is with civilization, nations 
rise, strengthen, and disappear. Humanity, by 
unmistakable signs, shows that it is on the wane, 
and that having employed its strength in matur- 
ity, age is now overtaking it. In time it will be 
content to live on the accumulated wisdom of the 
centuries, and, inured to thought, it will review 
the collective agitations of its past life, and rec- 
ognize the vanity of the goal hitherto pursued. 
. . . Humanity, in its decline, will leave no heir 
to profit by its accumulated wealth. It will have 
neither children nor grandchildren to trouble the 
rigor of its judgment through the illusions of pa- 
rental love. It will sink finally into that melan- 
choly which is the appanage of great minds ; it 
will in a measure float above its own body like 
a spirit freed from matter ; or, as CEdipus at Co- 
lonna, it will in anticipation taste the calm of 
chaos, and assist with compassionate self-pity at 
the spectacle of its own suffering. Passions that 
have vanished into the depths of reason will be 
resolved into ideas by the white light of thought. 
Illusions will have faded and hope be done with, 
for what is there left to hope ? Its highest aim 
can be but the absence of pain, for it can no 
longer dream of happiness ; still weak and frag- 
ile, working to live, and yet not knowing why it 

The Great Quietus. 199 

does so, it will ask but one gift, the rest of an 
endless sleep that shall calm its weariness and 
immense ennui. It is then that humanity will 
have passed through the three periods of illusion, 
and in recognizing the nothingness of its former 
hopes will aspire only to absolute insensibility 
and the chaos of Nirvana." 

It remains but to inquire what is to become of 
disillusionized humanity, and to what goal evolu- 
tion is tending. The foregoing account of Hart- 
man n's theory should have shown that this goal 
cannot be happiness, for at no period has it ever 
been reached, and, moreover, that with the prog- 
ress of the world man is gaining a clearer per- 
ception of his misery. On the other hand, it 
would be illogical to suppose that evolution is to 
continue with no other aim than that of the dis- 
charge of the successive moments that compose 
it ; for if each of these moments is valueless, 
evolution itself would be -meaningless ; but Hart- 
mann, it may be remembered, has recognized in 
the Unconscious a principle of absolute wisdom, 
and the answer must be looked for elsewhere, 
but preferably in that direction which most no- 
ticeably points to some determined and progres- 
sive perfection. No such sign, however, is to be 
met with anywhere save in the development of 
consciousness; here progress has been clearly 
and uninterruptedly at work, from the appear- 
ance of the first globule to contemporaneous hu- 
manity, and in all probability will continue to 
advance so long as the world subsists. All 

2OO The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

things aid in its production and development, 
while to its assistance there come not only the 
perfecting of the nervous system, but also such 
personal incentives as the desire for wealth, 
which in increasing general welfare disfranchises 
the intellect ; then, too, there are the stimulants 
to intellectual activity, vanity and ambition, and 
also sexual love, which heightens its aptitudes ; 
in short, every instinct which is valuable to the 
species, and which costs the individual more pain 
than pleasure, is converted into an unalloyed and 
increasing gain for consciousness. 

In spite of all this, however, the development 
of consciousness is but the means to an end, and 
cannot therefore be considered as an absolute 
goal; "for consciousness," Hartmann says, "is 
born of pain, and exists and expands with suf- 
fering, and yet what manner of consolation does 
it offer ? Merely a vain self-mirroring. Of course, 
if the world were good and beautiful, this would 
not be without its advantage ; but a world which 
is absolutely miserable, a world which must curse 
its own existence the moment it is able to judge 
it, can never regard its apparent and purely ideal 
reflection as a reasonable goal and termination 
of its existence. Is there not suffering enough 
in reality ? Is it necessary to reproduce it in a 
magic lantern? No; consciousness cannot be 
the supreme goal of a world whose evolution is 
directed by supreme wisdom. . . . Some other 
end must be sought for, then, to which the devel- 
opment of consciousness shall be but the means." 

The Great Quietus. 201 

But, however the question is regarded, from 
whatever standpoint the matter is viewed, there 
seems to be but one possible goal, and that is 
happiness. Everything that exists tends thereto, 
and it is the principle on which rests each of the 
diverse forms of practical philosophy ; moreover, 
the pursuit of happiness is the essence of Will 
seeking its own pacification. But happiness has 
been shown to be an illusion ; still there must 
be some key to the riddle. The solution is at 
once simple and unexpected. There can be no 
positive happiness, and yet happiness of some 
kind is necessary ; the supreme aim of universal 
progress, of which consciousness is but the in- 
strument, is then the realization of the highest 
possible felicity, which is nothing else than the 
freedom from all pain, and, in consequence, the 
cessation of all life ; or, in other words, total an- 

This climax is the only one which Hartmann 
will consent to consider ; from any other point of 
view evolution would be a tireless progressus 
which some day might be blindly arrested by 
chance, while life in the mean time would remain 
in the utter desolation of an issueless purgatory. 

The path, however, through which the great 
deliverance is to be effected is as tortuously per- 
plexing as the irrational duality of the Uncon- 
scious. Many generations of pessimists are 
needed before the world will be fully ripe for its 
great leap into the night of time ; even then, 
though Hartmann does not appear to suspect it, 

2O2 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

there will probably be quite a number of panthe- 
ists who, drunk on Nature, will stupidly refuse the 
great bare bodkin, which will have thus been 
carefully prepared for their viaticum. 

It should not be supposed that in all this there 
is any question of the suicide of the individual : 
Hartmann is far too dramatic to suggest a final 
tableau so tame and humdrum as that ; besides, 
it has been seen that the death of the individual 
does not drag with it the disappearance of the 
species, and in no wise disturbs the heedless calm 
of Nature. It is not the momentary and ephem- 
eral existence that is to be destroyed, for, after 
its destruction, the repairing and reproducing 
force would still survive ; it is the principle of 
existence itself which must be extinguished ; the 
suicide, to be effectual, must be that of the cos- 
mos. This proceeding, which will shortly be ex- 
plained, " will be the act of the last moment, 
after which there will be neither will nor activity ; 
after which, to quote Saint John, ' time will have 
ceased to be.' " 

But here it may be pertinently asked whether 
humanity, such as it now is, will be capable of this 
grandiose development of consciousness which is 
to prepare the absolute renunciation of the will 
to live, or whether some superior race is to ap- 
pear on earth which will continue the work and 
attain the goal. May it not be that the globe 
will be but the theatre of an abortive effort of 
this description, and long after it has gone to in- 
crease the number of frozen spheres, some other 

The Great Quietus. 203 

planet, which is to us invisible, may, under more 
favorable circumstances, realize the self-same aim 
and end ? To this the answer is made that if hu- 
manity is ever destined to conduct the world's 
evolution to its coronation, it will assuredly not 
complete its task until the culminating point of 
its progress has been reached, nor yet until it 
has united the most favorable conditions of exist- 
ence. We need not, however, bother about the 
perspective which science has disclosed, and 
which points to a future period of congelation 
and complete inertia ; long before that time, 
Hartmann says, evolution will have ended, and 
this world of ours, with its continents and archi- 
pelagoes, will have vanished. 

The manner in which this great and final anni- 
hilation is to be accomplished is of a threefold 
nature ; the first condition necessary to success 
is that humanity at some future time shall con- 
centrate such a mass of Will that the balance, 
spread about elsewhere over the world, will be in- 
significant in proportion. This, Hartmann ex- 
plains, is in no wise impossible, "for the mani- 
festation of Will in atomic forces is greatly inferior 
to that which is exercised in the vegetable and 
animal kingdom, and hence much less than that 
which irrupts in man. The supposition, there- 
fore, that the greater part may be capitalized in 
man is not necessarily an idle dream. When 
that day arrives, it will suffice for humanity to no 
longer will to live to annihilate the entire fabric ; 
for humanity will at that time represent more 

2O4 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

Will than all the rest of Nature collectively con- 

The second condition necessary to success is 
that mankind shall be so thoroughly alive to the 
folly of life, so imperiously in need of peace, and 
shall have so completely disentangled every effort 
from its aimlessness, that the yearning for an 
end to existence will be the prime motive of every 
act. A condition such as this, Hartmann thinks, 
will probably be realized in the old age of hu- 
manity. The theory that life is an evil is already 
admitted by thinkers ; the supposition, therefore, 
that it may some day triumph over the prejudices 
of the multitude is neither absurd nor preposter- 
ous. As is shown in the history of other creeds, 
an idea may penetrate so deeply into the minds 
of its adherents as to breed an entire race of fa- 
natics ; and it is the opinion, not of Hartmann 
alone, but of many serious and cultivated schol- 
ars, that if ever an idea was destined to triumph 
without recourse to either passion or violence, 
and to exercise at the same time an action purely 
pacific, yet so profound and durable as to assure 
its success beforehand, that idea, or rather that 
sentiment, is the compassion which the pessimist 
feels not only for himself, but for everything that 
is. Its gradual adoption these gentlemen con- 
sider not as problematical, but merely as a ques- 
tion of time. Indeed, the difficulty is not so 
great as might be supposed ; every day the will 
of the individual suffices to triumph over the in- 
stinctive love of life, and, Hartmann logically 

The Great Quietus. 205 

argues, may not the mass of humanity do the 
same thing ? The denial of the will to live on the 
part of the individual is, it is true, barren of any 
benefit to the species, but, on the other hand, a 
universal denial would result in complete deliver- 

Mankind, however, has yet a long journey be- 
fore it, and many generations are needed to over- 
come, and to dissipate little by little, through the 
influence of heredity, those passions which are 
opposed to the desire for eternal peace. In time, 
Hartmann thinks, all this will be brought about ; 
and he holds, moreover, that the development of 
consciousness will correspond with the weaken- 
ing of passion, which is to be one of the charac- 
teristics of the decline of humanity, as it is now 
one of the signs of the day. 

The third condition necessary for the perfect 
consummation of this gigantic suicide is that 
communication between the inhabitants of the 
world be so facilitated that they may simultane- 
ously execute a common resolution. Full play 
is allowed the imagination in picturing the man- 
ner in which all this is to be accomplished. Hart- 
mann has a contempt for details, and contents 
himself with asserting that it is necessary and 
possible, and that in the abdication of humanity 
every form of existence will cease. 

Such, in brief, is this vehement conception of 
the ordering of the world, and the plan for its 
precipitate destruction. With a soldierly disre- 
gard of objection, but with a prodigality of argu- 

206 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

ment and digression which, if not always sub- 
stantial, is unusually vivid, Hartmann explains 
the Unconscious and its reacting dualism of 
Will and Idea. One principle is, as has been 
seen, constantly irrupting into life, and it is 
through the revolt of the second that the first is 
to be thwarted and extinguished. Nothing, in- 
deed, could be more simple ; and it would be a 
graceless and pedantic task to laboriously clam- 
ber to the same vague altitudes to which Hart- 
mann has so lightly soared, and there contradict 
his description of the perspective. 

To any one who has cared to follow the writer 
thus far, the outlines given of Hartmann's con- 
spiracy against pain must have seemed aggress- 
ively novel. Schopenhauer's ideas on the same 
subject were seemingly more practical, if less 
lurid, but then Schopenhauer hugged a fact and 
flouted chimeras. It may be that Schopenhauer 
was a little behind the age, for Hartmann has 
criticised him very much as a collegian on a holi- 
day might jeer at the old-world manners of his 
grandfather. As they cannot both be right, each 
may be wrong ; and it may be that the key to 
the whole great puzzle is contained in that one 
word, resignation, which the poet-philosopher pro- 
nounced so long ago. As a remedy this certainly 
has the advantage of being a more immediate 
and serviceable palliative to the sufferer than 
either of those suggested in the foregoing sys- 
tems. It is admitted that 

" Man cannot feed and be fed on the faith of to-morrow's 
baked meat ; " 

The Great Quietus. 207 

and it is in the same manner difficult for any one 
to hypnotize himself and his suffering with the 
assurance that in the decline of humanity all pain 
will cease ; on the other hand, whether we have 
in regard to future generations an after-me-the- 
deluge feeling, and practically care very little 
whether or no they annihilate themselves and 
pain too, still the more intelligent will readily 
recognize the ubiquity of sorrow, and consider 
resignation at present as its most available salve. 
But in spite of its vagaries, pessimism, as ex- 
pounded by Schopenhauer and Hartmann, pos- 
sesses a real and enduring value which it is diffi- 
cult to talk away; it is naturally most easy to 
laugh, in the heyday of youth and health, at its 
fantastic misanthropy ; indeed, it is in no sense 
perfect ; it has halted and tripped many times ; 
it has points that even to the haphazard and in- 
different spectator are weak and faulty, and yet 
what creed is logically perfect, and what creed is 
impregnable to criticism ? That there is none 
such can be truly admitted. The reader, then, may 
well afford to be a little patient with pessimism ; 
theoretically, it is still in its infancy, but with in- 
creasing years its blunders will give way to 
strength ; and though many of the theories that 
it now holds may alter, the cardinal, uncontrover- 
tible tenet that life is a burden will remain firm 
and changeless to the end of time. 



IN very stately words, that were typical of him 
who uttered them, Emerson said, " I do not wish 
to be amused ; " and turned therewith a figurative 
back on the enticements of the commonplace. 

Broadly speaking, the sentiment that prompted 
this expression is common to all individual men. 
The so-called allurements and charms of the 
world are attractive to the vulgar, but not to the 
thinker, and whether the thinker be a Trappist or 
a comedian, he will, if called to account, express 
himself in a manner equally frank. 

For sentiments of this description neither or- 
thodoxy nor pessimism is to blame. They are 
merely the resultants of the obvious and the true ; 
they leap into being in every intelligent mind. 
The holiday crowd on its way to the Derby, to 
Coney Island, the Lido, or to any one of the other 
thousand places of popular resort, causes even the 
ordinary observer to wonder why it is that he 
cannot go too, and enjoy himself with the same 
boisterous good humor which palpitates all about 
him ; he thinks at first that he has some fibre 
lacking, some incapacity for that enjoyment which 

Is Life an Affliction ? 209 

has in so large a measure been given to others ; 
but little by little the conviction breaks upon him 
that he has a fibre more, and that it is the others 
who lack the finer perceptions with which he is 

That the others are to be envied, and he to be 
pitied, there can be no manner of doubt, but all 
the same the fact that he is unable to take part 
in popular amusements steadfastly remains ; and 
while the matter of the extra fibre is more or less 
reassuring, it is not always perfectly satisfactory, 
and he then begins to look about for the reason. 
If to his power of observation there be added 
also a receptive mind and an introspective eye, 
it will be unnecessary for him to have ever heard 
of M. Renan to become gradually aware that 
he is the victim of a gigantic swindle. In com- 
mon with many others, he has somehow imag- 
ined that the world was a broad and fertile 
plain, with here and there a barren tract. It is 
impossible for him to give any reason for this 
fancy ; " In the world ye shall have tribulation," 
is the explicit warning of the Founder of Chris- 
tianity, and to this warning all creeds, save that 
of the early Hellenists, concur. It did not, there- 
fore, come from any religious teaching, nor, for 
that matter, from any philosophy. Still the im- 
pression, however vague it may seem when ana- 
lyzed, has none the less been with him, as with 
all others, the reason being simply that he grew 
up with it as he may have grown up with fairy 
tales, and it is not until his aspirations stumble 

2IO The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

' over facts that he begins to see that life, instead 
of being the pleasant land flowing with milk and 
honey, which he had imagined, is in reality some- 
thing entirely different. 

These deductions, of course, need not follow 
because a man finds that he is more or less indif- 
ferent to every form of entertainment, from a 
king's revel to a walking-match ; but they may 
follow of any man who has begun to dislike the 
propinquity of the average, and to feel that where 
the crowd find amusement there will be nothing 
but weariness and vexation of spirit for him. 
Under such circumstances he is an instinctive 
pessimist, and one who needs but little theoretic 
instruction to learn that he, as all others, has 
been made use of, and cheated to boot. The 
others, it is true, are, generally speaking, unaware 
of the deception that has been practiced on them ; 
they have, it may be, a few faint suspicions that 
something has gone wrong somewhere, but even 
in uttermost depression the untutored look upon 
their misfortunes as purely individual, and un- 
shared by the world at large. Of the universal- 
ity of suffering, of the fact, as John Stuart Mill 
has put it, that there is no happiness for nine- 
teen twentieths of the world's inhabitants, few 
have any conception or idea. They look, it may 
be, over their garden wall, and, hearing their 
neighbor grumble, they think that, being cross- 
grained and ill-tempered, his life is not one of 
unalloyed delight. But their vision extends no 
further. They do not see the sorrow that has no 

Is Life an Affliction? 211 

words, nor do they hear the silent knell of irre- 
coverable though unuttered hopes, " the toil of 
heart, and knees, and hands." Of all these 
things they know nothing ; household worries, 
and those of their neighbor and his wife, circle 
their existence. If they are not contented them- 
selves, then happiness is but a question of dis- 
tance. Another street, or another town, or an- 
other country holds it, and if the change is made, 
the old story remains to be repeated. 

There are those, too, who from dyspepsia, tor- 
pidity of the liver, or general crankiness of dis- 
position, are inclined to take a gloomy view of 
all things ; then there is a temperamental pes- 
simism which displays itself in outbursts of indig- 
nation against the sorrows of life, and in frantic 
struggles with destiny and the meshes of personal 
existence ; there is also the sullen pessimism of 
despair noticeable in the quiet folding of hands, 
and which with tearless eyes awaits death without 
complaint; then there are those who complain 
and sulk, who torment themselves and others, 
and" who have neither the spunk to struggle nor 
the grace to be resigned, this is the "forme 
miserable;" there is also a haphazard pessimism 
which comes of an unevenness of disposition, 
and which asserts itself on a rainy day, or when 
stocks are down ; another is the accidental type, 
the man who, with loss of wife, child, or mis- 
tress, settles himself in a dreary misanthropy ; 
finally, there is hypochondria, which belongs 
solely to pathology. 

212 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

In none of these categories do the victims 
have any suspicion that a philosophical signifi- 
cance is attached to their suffering. Curiously 
enough, however, it is from one or from all of 
these different classes that the ordinary accepta- 
tion of pessimism is derived ; it is these forms 
that are met with in every-day life and literature, 
and yet it is precisely with these types, that 
spring from the disposition and temperament of 
the individual who exhibits them, that scientific 
pessimism has nothing to do. It ignores them 

Broadly stated, scientific pessimism in its most 
advanced form rests on a denial that happiness in 
any form ever has been or ever will be obtained, 
either by the individual as a unit or by the world 
as a whole ; and this for the reason that life is 
not considered as a pleasant gift made to us for 
our pleasure ; on the contrary, it is a duty which 
must be performed by sheer force of labor, a 
task which in greater matters, as in small, brings 
in its train a misery which is general, an effort 
which is ceaseless, and a tension of mind and 
body which is extreme, and often unbearable. 
Work, torment, pain, and misery are held to be 
the unavoidable lot of nearly every one, and 
the work, torment, pain, and misery of life are 
considered as necessary to mankind as the keel 
to the ship. Indeed, were it otherwise, were 
wishes, when formed, fulfilled, in what manner 
would the time be employed ? Imagine the earth 
to be a fairyland where all grows of itself, where 

Is Life an Affliction? 213 

birds fly roasted to the spit, and where each 
would find his heart's best love wreathed with 
orange flowers to greet his coming ; what would 
the result be ? Some would bore themselves to 
death, some would cut their throats, while others 
would quarrel, assassinate, and cause generally 
more suffering than is in the present state of af- 
fairs actually imposed upon them. Pain is not 
the accident, but the necessary and inevitable 
concomitant of life ; and the attractiveness of the 
promise " that thy days may be long in the land 
which the Lord thy God giveth thee," is, in con- 
sequence, somewhat impaired. 

Nor, according to scientific pessimism, is there 
any possibility that happiness will be obtained in 
a future life. In this there is no atheism, though 
the arguments that follow may seem to savor of 
the agnostic. 

As has been seen, pleasures are, as a rule, in- 
direct, being cessations or alleviations of pain. 
If it be taken for granted that in a future life 
there will be no pain, the difficulty is not over- 
come, but rather increased by the fact of the 
rapid exhaustion of nervous susceptibility to 
pleasure. Furthermore, as without brain there is 
no consciousness, it will riot be illogical to sup- 
pose that e\4ery spirit must be provided with such 
an apparatus; in which case the psychological 
laws in the other life must be strictly analogous 
to those of early experience. The deduction 
follows of itself, there, too, must be pain and 

214 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

To this it may be objected that in a future 
life there need be no question either of pain or 
pleasure, and that the ransomed soul will, in con- 
templation, or love, or the practice of morality, 
be too refined to be susceptible to any sensations 
of a grosser nature. 

To all this advanced pessimism has a ready 
answer : first, there can be no morality, for where 
there is no body and no property it is impossible 
to injure another ; second, there can be no love, 
for every form of love, from the highest to the 
lowest, rests on the basis of sensibility ; when, 
therefore, after the abstraction of shape, voice, 
features, and all bodily actions that are mani- 
fested through the medium of the brain, nothing 
but an unsubstantial shadow remains, what is 
there left to love ? third, there can be no contem- 
plation, for in a state of clairvoyance contempla- 
tion is certainly useless. 

In these arguments pessimism, it may be noted, 
does not deny the possibility of future existence ; 
it denies merely the possibility of future happi- 
ness ; and its logic, of course, can in no wise af- 
fect the position of those who hold that man is 
unable to conceive or imagine anything of that 
which is, or is not to be. 

From a religious standpoint advanced pessi- 
mism teaches that the misery of life, is immedi- 
cable, and strips away every illusion with which it 
has been hitherto enveloped ; it offers, it is true, 
no hope that a future felicity will be the recom- 
pense of present suffering, and if in this way it 

Is Life an Affliction? 215 

ignores any question of reward and punishment, 
it does not for that reason necessarily open a 
gate to license and immorality ; on the contrary, 
pessimism stands firmly to the first principle of 
the best ethics, and holds that men shall do good 
without the wish to be rewarded, and abstain from 
evil without the fear of being punished. 

In regard to what follows death, it recognizes in 
the individual but the aspiration to be liberated 
from the task of cooperating in evolution, the de- 
sire to be replunged in the Universal Spirit, and 
the wish to disappear therein as the raindrop dis- 
appears in the ocean, or as the flame of the lamp 
is extinguished in the wind. In other words, it 
does not aim at mere happiness, but at peace and 
at rest ; and meanwhile, until the hour of deliver- 
ance is at hand, it does not acquit the individual 
of any of the obligations that he owes to society, 
nor of one that is due to himself. In short, the 
creed as it stands is one of charity and good-will 
to all men ; and, apart from its denial of future 
happiness, it does not in its ethics differ in any 
respect from the sublime teachings of the Chris- 
tian faith. 

It seems trite to say that we are passing through 
a transition period, for all things seem to point 
to a coming change ; still, whatever alterations 
time may bring in its train, it is difficult to af- 
firm that the belief here set forth is to be the 
religion of the future, n'est pas prophete quiveut; 
in any event, it is easy to prove that pessimism 
is not a religion of the past. Its very youth 

2l6 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

militates most against it ; and while it may out- 
grow this defect, yet it has other objectionable 
features which to the average mind are equally 
unassuring : to begin with it is essentially icon- 
oclastic; wherever it rears its head, it does so 
amid a swirl of vanishing illusions and a totter 
and crash of superstition. There are few, how- 
ever, that part placidly with these possessions ; 
illusions are relinquished grudgingly, and as for 
superstitions, a wise man has said, Are they 
not hopes ? It would seem, then, that in showing 
the futility of any quest of happiness here or here- 
after, this doctrine, if received at all, will have 
performed a very thankless task. Indeed, it is 
this reason, if no other, that will cause it for some 
time to come to be regarded with distrust and dis- 
like. The masses are conservative, and their 
conservatism usually holds them one or two cen- 
turies in arrears of advancing thought ; and even 
putting the masses out of the question, one has 
to be very hospitable to receive truth at all times 
as a welcome guest, for truth is certainly very 
naked and uncompromising ; we love to sigh for 
it, Beranger said, and, it may be added, most of 
us stop there. 

Pessimism, moreover, seemingly takes, and 
gives nothing in return ; but if it is examined 
more closely it will be found that its very melan- 
choly transforms itself into a consolation which, 
if relatively restricted, is none the less valuable. 
Taubert, one of its most vigorous expounders, 
says, " Not only does it carry the imagination far 

Is Life an Affliction? 217 

beyond the actual suffering to which every one is 
condemned, and in this manner shield us from 
manifold deceptions, but it even increases such 
pleasures as life still holds, and doubles their in- 
tensity. For pessimism, while showing that each 
joy is an illusion, leaves pleasure where it found 
it, and simply incloses it in a black border, from 
which, in greater relief, it shines more brightly 
than before." 

Another objection which has been advanced 
against pessimism is that it is a creed of quietist 
inactivity. Such, however, it can no longer be 
considered ; for if it be viewed in the light of its 
recent developments, it will be found to be above 
all other beliefs the one most directly interested 
in the progress of evolution. Pessimism, it may 
be remembered, came into general notice not 
more than twenty-five years ago ; at that time 
it aroused in certain quarters a horrified dislike, 
in others it was welcomed with passionate ap- 
proval ; books and articles were written for and 
against it in much the same manner that books 
and articles leaped into print in defense and 
abuse of the theory generally connected with Dar- 
win's name. Since then the tumult has gradually 
calmed down ; on the one hand pessimism is 
accepted as a fact ; on the other new expositors, 
less dogmatic than their great predecessor, and 
with an equipment of a quarter of a century's 
advance in knowledge, prune the original doc- 
trine, and strengthen it with fresh and vigorous 
thought. Among these, and directly after Hart- 

2i8 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

mann, Taubert takes the highest rank. This 
writer recognizes the truth of Schopenhauer's 
theory that progress brings with it a clearer con- 
sciousness of the misery of existence and the il- 
lusion of happiness, but at the same time much 
emphasis is laid on the possibility of triumphing 
over this misery through a subjugation of the 
selfish propensities. It is in this way, Taubert 
considers, that peace may be attained, or at least 
the burden of life noticeably diminished. 

The bleakness in which Hartmann lodged the 
Unconscious is through this treatment rendered, 
if not comfortable, at least inhabitable. But 
while in this manner Taubert plays the uphol- 
sterer, another exponent wanders through the 
shadowy terraces of thought, and in so doing 
looks about him with the grim suavity of a 
sheriff seeking a convenient spot on which to 
clap a bill of sale. This writer, Julius Bahnsen, 
is best known through his " Philosophy of His- 
tory," 1 and a recent publication, " The Tragic 
as the World's First Law," whose repulsively at- 
tractive title sent a fresh ripple eddying through 
the seas of literature. In these works the ex- 
treme of pessimism may be said to have been 
reached, for not only does their author vie with 
Schopenhauer in representing the world as a 
ceaseless torment which the Absolute has im- 
posed on itself, but he goes a step further, and in 

1 Zur Philosophic der Geschichte, u. s. w. Carl Duncker, 
Berlin ; also Das Tragische als Weltgesetz, u. s. w. Lauen- 

Is Life an Affliction? 219 

denying that there is any finality even immanent 
in Nature, asserts that the order of phenomena is 
utterly illogical. It may be remembered that the 
one pure delight which Schopenhauer admitted 
was that of intellectual contemplation : 

" That blessed mood, 
In which the burden of the mystery, 
In which the heavy and the weary weight 
Of all this unintelligible world 
Is lightened." 

But from Bahnsen's standpoint, inasmuch as the 
universe is totally lacking in order or harmonious 
design, since it is but the dim cavernous abode 
of unrelated phenomena and forms, the pleasure 
which Schopenhauer admitted, so far from caus- 
ing enjoyment, is simply a source of anguish to 
the intelligent and reflective mind. Even the 
hope of final annihilation, which Schopenhauer 
suggested and Hartmann planned, has brought 
to him but cold comfort. He puts it aside as 
a pleasant and idle dream. To him the misery 
of the world is permanent and unalterable, and 
the universe nothing but Will rending itself in 
eternal self-partition and unending torment. 

Beyond this it is difficult to go ; few have cared 
to go even so far, and the bravado and vagaries of 
this doctrine have not been such as to cause any- 
thing more than a success of curiosity. Indeed, 
Bahnsen's views have been mentioned here sim- 
ply as being a part of the history, though not of 
the development of advanced pessimism, and 
they may now very properly be relegated to the 
night to which they belong. 

220 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

To sum up, then, what has gone before, the 
modern pessimist is a Buddhist who has strayed 
from the Orient, and who in his exodus has 
left behind him all his fantastic shackles, and 
has brought with him, together with ethical laws, 
only the cardinal tenet, " Life is evil." Broadly 
considered, the difference between the two creeds 
is not important. The Buddhist aspires to a uni- 
versal nothingness, and the pessimist to the mo- 
ment when in the face of Nature he may cry : 

" Oh ! quelle immense joie, apres tant de souffrance ! 
A travers les debris, par-dessus les charniers, 
Pouvoir enfin jeter ce cri de delivrance 
' Plus d'hommes sous le ciel ! Nous sommes les der- 
niers ! ' " 

Beyond this difference, the main principles of the 
two beliefs vary only with the longitude. The 
old, yet still infant East demands a fable, to 
which the young yet practical West turns an inat- 
tentive ear. Eliminate palingenesis, and the 
steps by which Nirvana is attained, and the two 
creeds are to all intents and purposes precisely 
the same. 

Of the two, Buddhism is, of course, the stronger ; 
it appeals more to the imagination and less to 
facts ; indeed, numerically speaking, its strength 
is greater than that of any other belief. Ac- 
cording to the most recent statistics the world 
holds about 8,000,000 Jews, 100,000,000 Mo- 
hammedans, 130,000,000 Brahmins, 370,000,000 
Christians, and 480,000,000 Buddhists, the re- 
mainder being pagans, positivists, agnostics and 

Is Life an Affliction? 221 

atheists. Within the last few years Buddhism 
has spread into Russia, and from there into Ger- 
many, England, and the United States, and wher- 
ever it spreads it paves in its passing the way 
for pessimism. The number of pessimists it is 
of course impossible to compute : instinctive pes- 
simists abound everywhere, but however limited 
the number of theoretic pessimists may be, their 
literature at least is daily increasing. For the 
last twenty years, it may safely be said that not a 
month has gone by unmarked by some fresh con- 
tribution ; and the most recent developments of 
French and German literature show that the 
countless arguments, pleas, and replies which the 
subject has called forth have brought, instead of 
exhaustion, a new and expanded vigor. 

The most violent opposition that pessimism has 
had to face has come, curiously enough, from the 
Socialists. For the Socialists, while pessimists 
as to the present, have optimistic views for the 
future. Their cry is not against the misery of the 
world, but against the capital that produces it. 
The artisan, they say, is smothered by the prod- 
uce of his own hands : the more he produces, 
the more he increases the capital that is chok- 
ing him down. In time, Marx says, there will 
exist only a few magnates face to face with a 
huge enslaved population ; and as wealth in- 
creases in geometric proportion so will poverty, 
and with it the exasperation of the multitude. 
Then the explosion is to come, and Socialism to 
begin its sway. Now Socialism does not, as is 

222 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

generally supposed, preach community of goods ; 
it preaches simply community of profits, and the 
abolition of capital as a productive agent. When 
the explosion comes, therefore, the Socialists pro- 
pose to turn the state into one vast and compre- 
hensive guild, to which all productive capital, 
land, and factories shall appertain. The right of 
inheritance of personal property, it maybe noted, 
will be retained ; and this for a variety of rea- 
sons, of which the most satisfactory seems to be 
that such a right serves as an incentive to econ- 
omy and activity. Money may be saved and 
descend, but it is not to be allowed the power of 

It will be readily understood, even from this 
brief summary, that such a doctrine as Hart- 
mann's, which is chiefly concerned in disproving 
the value of every aspect of progress, was cer- 
tain to call out many replies from those who see 
a vast area for the expansion of human comfort 
and happiness in the future developments of so- 
cial life. 

To these replies the pessimists have but one 
rejoinder, and that is that any hope of the ex- 
pansion of happiness is an illusion. And is it 
an illusion ? Simple Mrs. Winthrop said, " If us 
as knows so little can see a bit o' good and 
rights, we may be sure as there 's a good and a 
rights better nor what we knows of." But then 
Mrs. Winthrop was admittedly simple, and her 
views in consequence are hardly those of the 
seer. From an endaemonist standpoint, the world 

Is Life an Affliction 1 ? 223 

does not seem to be much better off now than it 
was two or three thousand years ago ; there are 
even some who think it has retrograded, and who 
turn to the civilization of Greece and Rome with 
longing regret ; and this, notwithstanding the fact 
that from the peace and splendor of these na- 
tions cries of distress have descended to us which 
are fully as acute as any that have been uttered 
in recent years. Truly, to the student of his- 
tory each epoch brings its own shudder. There 
have been ameliorations in one way and pacifica- 
tions in another, but misery looms in tireless con- 
stancy through it all. Each year a fresh dis- 
covery seems to point to still better things in 
the future, but progress is as undeniably the chi- 
mera of the present century as the resurrection 
of the dead was that of the tenth ; each age has 
its own, for no matter to what degree of perfec- 
tion industry may arrive, and to whatever heights 
progress may ascend, it must yet touch some final 
goal, and meanwhile pessimism holds that with 
expanding intelligence there will come, little by 
little, the fixed and immutable knowledge that of 
all perfect things which the earth contains misery 
is the most complete. 

To question whether life is an affliction seems, 
from the facts and arguments already presented, 
to be somewhat unnecessary. The answer ap- 
pears in a measure to be a foregone conclusion. 
Yet, if the question be examined without bias 
and without prejudice the issue is not only doubt- 
ful, but difficult to ascertain. If in any intelli- 

224 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

gent community the matter were put to vote by 
acclamation, the decision would undoubtedly be 
in the negative ; and that for a variety of rea- 
sons, first and foremost of which is that ninety 
and nine out of a hundred persons are led by 
the thread of external appearance, and whatever 
their private beliefs may be, they still wish their 
neighbors to think that they at least have no 
cause to complain. 

It is this desire to appear well in the eyes o 
others that makes what is termed the shabby-gen- 
teel, and which prevents so many proud yet vul- 
gar minds from avowing their true position. In- 
deed, there are few who, save to an intimate, 
have the courage to acknowledge that they are 
miserable ; there is at work within them the same 
instinct that compels the wounded animal to seek 
the depths of the bushes in which to die. Peo- 
ple generally are ashamed of grief, and turn to 
hide a tear as the sensitive turn from an accident 
in the street, and veil their eyes from deformity. 
Moreover, it is largely customary to mock at the 
melancholy ; and in good society it is an unwrit- 
ten law that every one shall bring a certain quota 
of contentment and gayety, or else remain in 
chambered solitude. 

Added to this, and beyond the insatiable desire 
to appear serene and successful in the eyes of 
others, there is the terrible dread of seeming to 
be cheated and outwitted of that which is ap- 
parently a universal birthright ; and, according to 
a general conception, there is the same sort of 

Is Life an Affliction? 225 

moral baseness evidenced in an unuttered yet 
visible appeal for sympathy, as that which is at 
work in the beggar's outstretched palm. Many, 
it is true, there are who drop the furtive coin, but 
the world at large passes with averted stare. 
" There is work for all," is a common saying, and 
for the infirm there are hospitals and institutions ; 
"What, then, is the use of giving? "it is queried, 
and the answer follows, "They who ask for alms 
are frauds." If the alms be taken to stand for 
sympathy, the frauds will be found to be few and 
far between ; for, if each man and woman who 
has arrived at the age of reason, at that age, in 
fact, which is not such as is set by the statute, 
but which each individual case makes for itself ; 
if each one should have his heart first wrung dry 
and then dissected, there would be such an ex- 
panse and prodigality of sorrow discovered as 
would defy an index and put a library to shame. 

If the tendency of current literature is exam- 
ined, it will be found to point very nearly the 
same way. In earlier days the novel ended with 
the union of two young people, and the curtain 
fell on a tableau of awaited happiness. Nowa- 
days, however, as the French phrase goes, we 
have changed all that. Realistic fiction is a pic- 
ture of life as it is, and not, as was formerly the 
case, a picture of life as we want it. Probably 
the strongest and most typical romance of recent 
American authors is " The Portrait of a Lady ; " 
and this picture of a thoroughbred girl, awake to 
the highest possibilities of life, ends not only in 

226 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

her entire disenchantment, but also, if I have un- 
derstood Mr. James aright, in her utter degrada- 
tion. In that very elaborate novel, " Daniel De- 
ronda," the moral drawn is not dissimilar, and yet 
its author stood at the head of English fiction. 

In French literature, the same influence is even 
more noticeably at work. It is the fashion to 
abuse Zola, and to say that his works are ob- 
scene ; so they are, and so is the life that he de- 
picts, but his descriptions are true to the letter ; 
and the gaunt and wanton misery which he de- 
scribed in "rAssommoir " is not, to my thinking, 
such as one need blush over, but rather such as 
might well cause tears. The work which those 
princes of literature, the Goncourts and Daudet, 
have performed, has been prepared, as one may 
say, with pens pricked in sorrow. " Germanic 
Lacerteux," " la Fille Eliza," " Che'rie," " Jack," 
the " Nabab," and the " fivange'liste," are but 
one long-drawn-out cry of variegated yet self- 
same agony. In this respect Tourguenieff was 
well up to the age, as is also Spielhagen, who is 
very generally considered to be the best of Ger- 
man novelists. 

The splendid wickedness of mediaeval Italy 
has done little to inspire her modern authors. 
The romances most abundant there are cheap 
translations from the French. De Amicis, the 
most popular native writer, and one whose name 
is familiar to every one as a traveler in Gautier's 
footsteps, has written but few stories, of which 

Is Life an Affliction ? 227 

the best, however, " Manuel Menendez," is the 
incarnation of the soul of tragedy. 1 

Less recently, Stendhal, Balzac and Flaubert 
have harped the same note of accentuated des- 
pair ; Musset has sung songs that would make 
a statue weep, and Baudelaire seems to have 
supped sorrow with a long spoon. In brief, the 
testimony of all purely modern writers amounts 
pretty much to the same thing ; life to them 
seems an affliction. 

This, of course, it may do without altering its 
value to others ; let any one, for instance, go to 
a well-nurtured and refined girl of eighteen and 
tell her that life is an affliction, and she will look 
upon her informant as a retailer of trumpery par- 
adox. And at eighteen what a festival is life ! To 
one splendid in beauty and rich in hope how 
magnificent it all seems ; what unexplored yet in- 
viting countries extend about the horizon ! winter 
is a kiss that tingles, and summer a warm caress ; 
everything, even to death, holds its promise. 
And then picture her as she will be at eighty, 
without an illusion left, and turning her tired eyes 
each way in search of rest. 

Life is not an affliction to those who are, and 
who can remain young ; there are some who, 
without any waters of youth, remain so until age 
has sapped the foundation of their being ; and it 
is from such as they that the greatest cheer is 

1 An admirable translation (the work of Professor Charles 
Carroll, of New York) of this romance appeared a few 
years ago in Harper's Monthly. 

228 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

obtained. But to those who live, so to speak, 
in the thick of the fight, who see hope after hope 
fall with a crash, and illusion after illusion vanish 
into still air ; to the intelligent, to the observer, 
and especially to him who is forced against his will 
to struggle in the van, life is an affliction, a mis- 
hap, a calamity, and sometimes a curse. 

That there are many such is proven by the sta- 
tistics which the daily papers afford ; and could 
one play Asmodeus, and look into the secret lives 
of all men, the evidence obtainable would in its 
baldness seem hideously undesirable. The de- 
grees of sensitiveness, however, and the ability 
or inability to support suffering, vary admittedly 
with the individual. There are men who rise 
from an insult refreshed ; there are many to 
whom an injury is a tonic and pain a stimulant ; 
and there is even a greater number whose sensi- 
bilities are so dull that what is torture to another 
is barely a twinge to them. 

It was the melancholy privilege of the writer 
to assist, a short time since, at an operation per- 
formed in a German hospital. A common soldier 
had been thrown from a horse with such force that 
his elbow was dislocated ; in the Klinik he put 
his uninjured arm around a post, and then let the 
surgeon pull on a strap which had been fastened 
to the other, until the joint was once more in po- 
sition. His arm was then bandaged, and he was 
told to return in a fortnight. On his second visit 
the bandage was removed, and the surgeon, after 
a violent effort, moved the stiffened joint back- 

Is Life an Affliction ? 229 

wards and forwards. During both operations, 
the only noticeable evidence of pain was a slight 
contraction of the upper lip, while the general 
expression of his face was that of a calm as 
stolid as is required of the soldier when in the 
presence of his superior. To such an one as he 
life is no more an affliction than it is to the tur- 

Then, there are those to whom life is the 
amusing dream of an hour, who flit through ex- 
istence in loops of yellow light, who find pleasure 
in all things, and are careless of the morrow ; and 
these, perhaps, above all others, are the most to 
be envied. It is such natures as theirs that are 
usually met with in ordinary fiction, and which 
are so singularly infrequent in real life. In fancy 
they are evoked with ease, and yet somehow 
they do not seem to bear the stamp which ex- 
perience has set upon the real. That there are 
such natures it is, of course, absurd to deny, but 
to affirm that they are persistent types is scarcely 
in accordance with facts. There are, for instance, 
many young people who enter life with a prodi- 
gality of supposition which is certainly lavish ; 
they see that others are smiling, and that life, 
even to its outskirts, presents an appearance of 
pleasing serenity. The supposition which they 
foster, that a percentage of happiness will be al- 
lotted to them, is then not unreasonable ; on the 
contrary, it is very natural ; but as far as the ex- 
pectation goes, we are, most of us, very well 
aware that it holds its own but for a short space 
of time. 

230 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

This fact, while self-evident, is not always sat- 
isfactorily explained ; indeed, the reason why so 
many become disappointed with life is, perhaps, 
explainable only on psychological grounds. By 
all means the most important role throughout 
the entire length and breadth of humanity is 
that which is played by thought. Its influence is 
as noticeable in a bakeshop as in the overthrow 
of an empire ; yet, in spite of the results which 
are constantly springing from it, it was Rousseau's 
opinion that " 1'homme qui pense est un animal 
deprave." Balzac caught at this theme, and 
wrung from it its most severe deductions. To 
him it was a dissolvent of greater or less activity, 
according to the nature of the individual in whom 
it worked. Others have considered it to be the 
corrosive acid of existence, and the mainspring 
of every misfortune ; all this it may or may not 
be, but that at least it is the prime factor of dis- 
enchantment is evidenced by such an every-day 
instance as that man, as a rule, and with but few 
exceptions, pictures in advance the pleasures and 
sensations which the future seems to hold, and 
yet when the pictured future becomes the actual 
present the disproportion between fact and fancy 
is so great that it results, in nine cases out of ten, 
in a complete insolvency. After one or more 
bankruptcies of this description the individual 
very generally finds that he has had enough, so 
to speak, and lets hope ever after alone, where- 
upon disillusionment steps in and takes its place. 

It is thought, then, that does the mischief ; ,pr 

Is Life an Affliction? 231 

to be more exact, it is the inability to maintain 
an equilibrium between the real and the ideal ; 
that is, in the majority of cases, the cause of dis- 
enchantment. To this it may be also added that 
it is because every one is so well organized for 
misfortune that such a small amount of open re- 
volt is encountered. When it does appear, it is, 
as a rule, presented by such thinkers as have 
been mentioned in the course of these pages, 
who, through their assertion of the undeniable 
awake the dislike and animosity of those who 
have not yet had their fill of proceedings in 
bankruptcy, and still hope to find life a pleasant 
thing well worth the living. 

It may be said in conclusion, and without any 
attempt at the discursive, that the moral atmos- 
phere of the present century is charged with three 
distinct disturbances, the waning of religious 
belief, the insatiable demand for intense sensa- 
tions, and the increasing number of those who 
live uncompanied, and walk abroad in solitude. 
That each of these three effects is due to one 
and the self-same cause is well-nigh unquestion- 
able. The immense nausea that is spreading 
through all lands and literature is at work on the 
simple faith, the contented lives, and joyous good- 
fellowship of earlier days, and in its results it 
brings with it the signs and portents of a forth- 
coming though undetermined upheaval. Jean 
Paul said that we care for life, not because it is 
beautiful, but because we should care for it; 
whence follows the oft repeated yet hollow reason- 

232 The Philosophy of Disenchantment. 

ing. since we love life it must be beautiful ; and 
it is from a series of deductions not dissimilar 
that the majority of those who are as yet unaf- 
fected by that which after all may be but a pass- 
ing change still cling resolutely to the possibility 
of earthly happiness. 

Out of a hundred intelligent Anglo-Saxons 
there are seldom two who think precisely alike 
on any given subject, be that subject what it 
may, art, politics, literature, or religion. In- 
deed, there is but one faith common to all, and 
that is custom. It is not, however, customary to 
discuss a subject such as that which is treated in 
these pages ; and it is, as a rule, considered just 
as bad form to question the value of life as it is 
to touch upon matters of an indelicate or repul- 
sive nature. 

It is, perhaps, for this latter reason, as also 
in view of the great difference of expressed opin- 
ion on all topics, that in England, and espec- 
ially in America, so little is said on this subject, 
which for many years past has been of interest 
to the rest of the thinking world, and which 
each year is gaining in strength and significance. 
What its final solution will be is, of course, un- 
certain. Schopenhauer recommended absolute 
chastity as the means to the great goal, and Hart- 
mann has vaguely suggested a universal denial of 
the will to live ; more recently, M. Renan has 
hazarded the supposition that in the advance of 
science some one might discover a force capable 
of blowing the planet to atoms, and which, if 

Is Life an Affliction? 233 

successfully handled, would, of course, annihilate 
pain. But these ideas, however practicable or 
impracticable they may be in the future, are for 
the moment merely theories ; the world is not yet 
ripe for a supreme quietus, and in the mean time 
the worth of life may still be questioned. 

The question, then, as to whether life is valua- 
ble, valueless, or an affliction can, with regard to 
the individual, be answered only after a consider- 
ation of the different circumstances attendant on 
each particular case ; but, broadly speaking, and 
disregarding its necessary exceptions, life may be 
said to be always valuable to the obtuse, often 
valueless to the sensitive ; while to him who 
commiserates with all mankind, and sympathizes 
with everything that is, We never appears other- 
wise than as an immense and terrible affliction. 

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